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Plaintiffs oppose dismissal of claim against UMBC police chief

Lawyers representing five plaintiffs in a $10 million federal lawsuit alleging UMBC and Baltimore County’s mishandling of sexual assault cases have filed a memorandum opposing UMBC Police Chief Paul Dillon’s motion to dismiss a count against him.

The 16-page memorandum, filed late Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleges that Dillon was a part of a county- and statewide “conspiracy” to “[deny] women of their civil rights in order to suppress reports of rape and sexual assault for personal and professional gain.” An amended complaint filed Oct. 17 by the five plaintiffs provides additional allegations against Dillon and claims that he intentionally dissuaded a student from filing a police report after she reported her rape to the UMBC campus police in 2015.

Lawyers in the Maryland attorney general’s office, which is representing Dillon, filed a motion Oct. 5, asking the federal judge in the case to dismiss the claim against him in the original lawsuit, filed Sept. 10. The motion included affidavits from Dillon — who was UMBC’s deputy chief of police at the time of the 2015 incident — and Rina Rhyne, who worked at UMBC as the Voices Against Violence program coordinator in 2015. The program aimed to provide support for victims of sexual assault and rape on campus, connecting them to resources and helping them in the process of reporting their assault, if they chose.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law stating that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of sex under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. The law includes any reports of sexual assault. Institutions of higher education are required to publish campus crime statistics, including sexual assault, within a yearly Clery Report.

Rhyne, who is now the Deputy Title IX coordinator for Goucher College, stated within her affidavit that “at no time did Deputy Chief Dillon attempt to influence [the student] in her choice as to whether to file University Title IX charges, criminal charges or both.”

Additionally, within an e-mail communication, she writes, “I found him to be a professional who valued integrity in police work and he demonstrated this with his actions when we worked together on multiple sexual assault and intimate partner violence cases at UMBC.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers, Rignal W. Baldwin V and Stephen C. Rigg, argue that Dillon’s request for dismissal no longer applies since the lawsuit now includes more allegations and three additional plaintiffs. They also argue in their filing that the Dillon request for summary judgment should be denied, as there has not been sufficient time for discovery.

The five plaintiffs – four former UMBC students and a graduate student from the University of Maryland at Baltimore – allege in the lawsuit that they were sexually assaulted on the UMBC campus between 2014 and 2017, and that officials from both the university and Baltimore County deliberately misclassified the incident reports to keep sexual assault statistics low.

The court filing filed on Oct. 19 alleges that Dillon’s Clery reporting is “unclear” and “facially deficient,” citing a misclassification of forcible fondling as rape. According to the filing, an assault was classified as “forcible fondling,” when by 2015 standards, it should have been classified as “rape.”

One of the original two plaintiffs in the case submitted an affidavit along with the new court filing, stating, “My family has a copy of UMBC’s Clery statistics from 2015, and it is not the same one Defendant Dillon attached to his motion to dismiss.”

That plaintiff maintains she was raped in 2015 by another UMBC student in a dormitory hall. That report of rape was never included in the 2015 Clery Report, the filing alleges.

Furthermore, the plaintiffs’ lawyers argue in the filing, Dillon is not entitled to qualified immunity due to the amended complaint’s allegations that Dillon “knowingly violated the law for malicious reasons.”

The Attorney General’s Office has declined to comment on any ongoing litigation.