Riverside County pays $900,000 to settle child sex abuse lawsuit against sheriff’s investigator
Riverside County paid $900,000 to settle a lawsuit against the county and former sheriff Stan Sniff brought by three men and a woman who allege they were molested as children by a sheriff’s investigator who took his own life 12 years ago.
The lawsuit accused Sniff, who left office in early 2019 after losing a re-election bid to current Sheriff Chad Bianco, of a “calculated and conscientious” cover-up of Kevin Duffy’s “depraved behavior.” Duffy was never charged with a crime, but Sniff allowed Duffy to go free though investigators wanted to arrest him, the lawsuit filed in federal court alleged.
Reached via email, Sniff declined to comment. County spokesperson Brooke Federico said in an email that the settlement was finalized in July. She declined further comment.
Filed in July 2020, the lawsuit also listed Duffy’s estate, the California Police Activities League, the National Police Activities/Athletic League and the Sheriff’s Activities League as defendants. Sniff and the county were dismissed from the lawsuit after the settlement.
The state of California was also sued, but later removed as a defendant. Lawyers for the police activities leagues denied the lawsuit’s allegations in court papers, which contain no response from Duffy’s estate.
Duffy, 51, died Jan. 25, 2009, after being placed on administrative leave about a week earlier. Two years prior, he won the Excellence in Community Service Award from the Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee.
Duffy joined the Sheriff’s Department in 1982 and founded the Hemet Sheriff’s Activities League, which sought to steer youths away from drugs and violence. His last assignment was at the sheriff’s Hemet station in Valle Vista.
The four plaintiffs are named in the lawsuit, but The Press-Enterprise typically does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, which contained graphic descriptions of alleged child molestation, alleged the plaintiffs were victimized as they took part in Duffy’s league.
Duffy involved himself in the plaintiffs’ lives and used his position to prey on them, the suit alleged. One of the boys “came from a troubled, fatherless home” and Duffy “took advantage of (him).”
Starting in 1999, the suit alleged that Duffy assaulted the female plaintiff — who was a teenager — “on multiple occasions,” including in the Hemet station’s interrogation room, after investigating allegations the girl’s father had sexually assaulted her. Duffy promised to let the girl, who was in foster care and diagnosed with autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, see her father if she performed sex acts with him, the lawsuit alleged.
Along with the plaintiffs, the suit alleged that Duffy “sexually assaulted numerous minor boys who were (league) participants and otherwise touched the boys for his own sexual gratification and arousal.” The lawsuit cited 15 other examples involving boys other than the plaintiffs.
Duffy, who was often the only adult around the boys, molested them on league overnight trips and at his home, the suit alleged. He used a “surprise pool party” at his home as “a pretext to get boys stripped to their underwear in his pool … for his sexual gratification.”
The plaintiffs “were afraid that Duffy would hurt them if they reported his sexual assault,” the suit alleged. “(They) continue to suffer from humiliation, guilt and shame relating to Duffy’s sexual assault.”
A whistleblower revealed that seven allegations of child sexual assault were confirmed by the time investigators interviewed Duffy on Jan. 15, 2009, according to the suit. A search warrant served at Duffy’s home and desk found child pornography, a law enforcement publication on child molesters, and “a piece of paper with websites related to ‘shirtless boys’ … at Duffy’s work desk, indicating that he used his work computer as a means to further his crimes,” the suit alleged.
Duffy failed a polygraph test and investigators had probable cause to arrest Duffy on suspicion of sexual assault, possession of child pornography and having unregistered firearms, according to the lawsuit. “ … The case agents wanted to arrest Duffy immediately, but Sniff personally ordered Duffy’s release. Duffy was released without any surveillance, and Duffy was left free to destroy evidence and visit the victims, one of whom he gifted with a shotgun.”
After Duffy’s suicide, “Sniff did not issue a press release describing Duffy’s crimes or ask any potential victims to come forward,” the suit stated.
“Sniff further covered up the case after Duffy’s crimes were unearthed by lying to the media, including by falsely claiming that the case agents did not seek to arrest Duffy and by falsely claiming that the District Attorney required additional search warrants before Duffy could be arrested.”
The lawsuit sought unspecified damages on the grounds of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery and childhood sexual assault, among other grounds.
The Duffy case arose during the 2018 sheriff’s race, with a private investigator calling for a grand jury investigation to learn the extent of Duffy’s crimes and accusing Sniff of a cover-up.
In a local TV news report at that time, Sniff said the accusations were baseless and politically motivated. According to a sheriff’s press release quoted in the report, the department said investigators started looking into Duffy on Jan. 12, 2009, and a team of 12 investigators interviewed more than 90 people — 75 of them minors — served more than 20 search warrants and wrote more than 150 reports on the case.
The investigation confirmed crimes against children in 2007 and 2009, but the case was not sent to the district attorney because Duffy had killed himself, the release is quoted as saying.
See the original article here: https://www.pe.com/2021/09/22/riverside-county-pays-900000-to-settle-child-sex-abuse-claims-against-sheriffs-investigator
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