The parents of an 11-year-old Canfield girl cleared of false rape charges is suing the city, police department and investigators for $5 million, alleging investigators pursued the case because of political connections even after they learned the accusations were false.
The parents alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. Northern District Court in Youngstown that Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci pressured investigators and juvenile prosecutors to pursue the case against the girl despite investigators believing that her three accusers were lying to get her in trouble.
The lawsuit said the girl fell asleep on her mother’s lap during a five-hour interrogation, that she was eventually charged with multiple counts of rape and was held in the Juvenile Detention Center on charges despite detectives believing the girl was innocent.
The charges were dismissed after one of the accusers, all 11 year olds, told police the group conspired to lie to get the girl in trouble.
The suit also names assistant Mahoning County prosecutor Anissa Modarelli, who handles juvenile criminal cases, detective Brian McGivern, officer Lea Byers, Sgt. Scott Weamer, the city and 20 other unnamed police officers.
The case was assigned to U.S. Northern District Judge John Adams in Akron.
The complaint says the girl is seeking damages because investigators violated illegal search and seizure laws, performed a malicious prosecution, abused their power, falsely imprisoned the girl, inflicted emotion distress and failed to provide police officers the necessary training to conduct juvenile sexual assault investigations.
The complaint says Donald Slater, who the lawsuit describes as a “well-connected political player” who was a former campaign manager and bailiff to a sitting judge told former Canfield Police Chief David Blystone his daughter was raped by the girl.
Blystone, the suit alleges, told Slater he would “motivate the Canfield police to take immediate and swift action on his behalf.” Blystone then called Colucci and explained he was personal friends with Slater and wanted action taken, the suit alleges.
Slater, the suit says, had no direct knowledge of the allegations. McGiver was assigned to the case and after an initial investigation, told Modarelli he had no evidence of rape and that he believed the three girls were lying.
Modarelli, the suit alleges, agreed, but pushed McGivern to interrogate the girl to protect Colucci’s relationship with Blystone even if evidence failed to support the allegation.
The suit alleges Colucci pushed McGivern to a fast, incomplete investigation to file criminal charges.
Colucci “in turn applied political pressure to Detective McGivern, demonstrating to McGivern that this prosecution was a personal priority of the chief’s that would affect McGivern’s career at the Canfield Police Department if he did not listen to” him.
The suit says police questioned the girl April 20, 2012 for about five hours without food, water or rest. The girl fell asleep in her mother’s lap. She consistently denied allegations, the complaint says.
The suit said investigators began questioning the truthfulness of the three girls’ allegations. Modarelli, who also thought the girls were lying, according to the suit, told investigators to pursue charges at the Colucci’s orders.
The girl was arrested April 24, rape charges were filed against the girl and she was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center “without her parents even having a chance to say goodbye,” the suit alleges.
One of the accusers later told police they conspired to lie during the investigation, yet the case against the girl continued the suit says.