Maricopa County officials agreed this week to pay $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged Maricopa County Sheriff botched the investigation into the rape of a then 13-year-old girl, failing to arrest the suspect who then went on to sexually attack her again. The County has over the past 22 years paid more than $68 million in judgments and settlements against the sheriff’s office during Arpaio’s tenure.
This lawsuit by the 13-year-old girl’s guardians claimed the subsequent attacks on the girl could have been avoided if Arpaio’s office arrested the suspect after he first abused her in March 2007 and threatened to kill her if she reported the allegations.
The lawsuit further claimed that crime lab officials told the sheriff’s office less than two weeks after the attack that it needed a blood sample from the suspect, whose identity was known to investigators.
The lawsuit said, the sheriff’s office responded to the initial rape allegation after it was revealed to officials at her school a day after the attack. A sheriff’s deputy interviewed the girl, who underwent a forensic exam to seek evidence of rape.
The girl’s rape case was among more than 400 sex-crime cases that were inadequately investigated or not looked into at all by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office over a three-year period ending in 2007. It’s unknown whether other victims in the botched investigations have filed similar lawsuits.
The girls lawsuit alleged that the sheriff’s office did nothing to pursue the investigation for more than three years. During that time, the lawsuit said the suspect continued his sexual attacks on the girl, leading to her pregnancy, which was aborted in 2009.
It took until June of 2011 for the department to reopen the case and eventually led to the suspects arrest. It concluded when he pleaded guilty to one count of child molestation and two counts of attempted child molestation and was sentenced to 24 years in prison.
Arpaio spokeswoman Lisa Allen said the police agency agrees with the decision by county officials to resolve the lawsuit. Allen said in a statement, “Today, this matter concludes and our hope is that the money awarded will go to a trust fund providing this victim with the help she requires now and in the future.”