Sheriff's office denies wrongdoing in lawsuit response

Jason Ferguson
The defendants in a lawsuit filed by a Custer County woman over her kidnapping and rape in September 2017 have denied allegations in a civil lawsuit that was federally filed in August.
Defendants Marty Mechaley, Custer County Sheriff, and deputy Matthew Tramp, through their legal counsel, J. Crisman Palmer and Rebecca L. Mann of Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson & Ashmore, LLP, filed a response to the lawsuit Oct. 28, in which they denied “each and every allegation, matter and thing contained in the plaintiff’s complaint,” except what is specifically admitted in the response.
The victim had a full protection order against the man convicted of raping and kidnapping her, Harry David Evans of Pringle, after an on-again, off-again abusive relationship. Evans was also named a defendant in the lawsuit. Evans was sentenced to life in prison for the crimes in March after being found guilty at trial. The victim is not being identified since she was the victim of sexual assault.
The lawsuit claims the victim’s kidnapping and rape was a result of the refusal and failure of Mechaley, Tramp and “Does 1-20” (which includes a Custer County dispatcher) to protect her when they “created a dangerous situation and/or increased danger to her by fostering a relationship of trust, confidence and vulnerability” that the victim “reasonably relied upon and by refusing and/or failing to provide promised protection at a time when the victim was no longer able to arrange for the protection of herself or her property.”
Evans was arrested for violating the restraining order Sept. 5 and released on bond and continued to threaten and harass the victim, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit claims the woman informed deputies she was afraid Evans was going to hurt her and continued to violate the protection order.
The lawsuit further states she was told by sheriff’s office deputies that if she felt Evans might come to her home, she should contact them and they would come sit in her driveway and that they were all familiar with what was happening.
The lawsuit states that on Sept. 6 the victim  received a threatening internet message from Evans, so she called the sheriff’s office at 10:41 p.m., telling dispatch she had received a threatening message from Evans and requested a deputy come to her home. 
The lawsuit states she was put on hold for 10 minutes before hanging up. She then called Hermosa Town Marshal Jim Daggett, who told her not to respond because the sheriff’s office would take care of the problem. The lawsuit alleges the victim again called 911 and was again left on hold until she hung up.
The lawsuit continues that Tramp called the woman 10 minutes after she was placed on hold the second time, whereupon the victim angrily “informed Tramp that Custer County was not protecting her and they didn’t care.”
The lawsuit alleges Tramp knew the situation was serious enough to inform the dispatcher to document the call, then ran out his shift and returned home. Evans broke into the victim’s home later that night, raping and kidnapping her.
“It total, defendants’ conduct, through acts and omissions, shocks the conscience,” the lawsuit states.
Among the many allegations denied in the defendants’ response are that the victim was put on hold for 10 minutes when she called, along with other aspects of the call.
“Plaintiff contacted the Custer County Sheriff’s Department Sept. 5, 2017, and asked to talk to someone,” it states. “Plaintiff hung up after approximately four minutes while dispatch was contacting a deputy and explaining the situation so the deputy could speak with plaintiff.”
The response also says the victim did not call 911, but rather, dispatch called her back because she had hung up, and attempted to transfer her to a deputy, but the transfer did not complete correctly.
The response says it was Deputy Derrick Reifenrath who called the victim the second time and she was extremely angry that she had been asked to hold and that no one was available to speak with her immediately.  
It continues to say the woman told Reifenrath “she did not want to speak with him about it” and that she was “done calling the sheriff’s office with her problems and hung up on him.”
The response states it was Reifenrath, not Tramp, who advised dispatch to document the phone issues and let a supervisor know about it. Tramp never spoke with the victim, the response states, and Reifenrath returned to his normal patrol after the victim advised him she did not want the sheriff’s office to respond.
The response also denies an allegation in the lawsuit that the victim was told not to use a firearm for her own protection.
The response states the defendants allege they are immune from the plaintiff’s suit under principles of qualified immunity under the doctrine of governmental and/or sovereign immunity. 
It also states there is no Constitutional right to be protected by the state from crimes committed by third parties and that they had no intent, purpose or deliberate indifference on their part to deny the victim any of her Constitutional or statutory rights or any rights alleged to have been deprived as alleged in her complaint. The response further states the sheriff’s office acted under lawful authority in a lawful manner and the victim’s injuries were caused solely by the conduct of Evans.
The response asks for the woman’s complaint to be dismissed with prejudice on its merits. The victim seeks a jury trial and $2 million.

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