Woman accuses sergeant of forcing himself on her

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by Nishi Gupta

KREM.com

Posted on April 13, 2011 at 10:02 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 2:24 PM

BOISE -- A sergeant for the Ada County Sheriff's Office is under investigation, accused of sexually forcing himself onto a woman last fall.

The 48-year-old woman's notice of tort claim was filed last month and the alleged incidents occurred in October 2010.

As a result, Joe Wright, 47, was placed on paid administrative leave on March 31st, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The attorneys for both sides agree the alleged victim’s claim was filed within a legal timeline, but disagree about her intentions.

It was last fall that the alleged victim was arrested by Meridian Police for a DUI. According to her notice of tort claim, she blew a .26. That is more than triple the legal limit.

Once out of the Ada County jail, she refused a ride from her boyfriend thinking he would be upset with her.

So Wright offered her a ride.

"So did he have contact with her? Of course he had contact with her. He picked her up behind the jail because she didn't want to go home with her boyfriend or the bail bondsman. So he ends up driving her home and in fact her house was locked and he did help her get inside the house," said Wright's attorney Joe Filicetti.

But the attorneys dispute events after that.

Her lawyers say Wright went inside the alleged victim's home and kissed her.

The next morning she wakes up, disrobed and calls him.

"The phone call to the officer was a: what happened and b: I'm looking for information with respect to my ticket," said the alleged victim's attorney Patrick Mahoney.

The tort claim alleges Wright told her he was in the area and would drop by to discuss the case.

No one else was home, and she let him in.

She claims he forced himself onto her several times and each time she pleaded he stop, even told him to leave.

He eventually did, and she said she watched him get into a white pickup truck, not a sheriff's vehicle.

Wright's attorney says the allegations are untrue.

"He's a 20-year veteran of the department," said Filicetti. "He's well respected in law enforcement. He's a really good guy. At the end of the day I think he's going to be cleared of the charges."

He says the woman is alleging Wright engaged in criminal conduct, and yet didn't report it to law enforcement until now, nearly six months later.

He wonders if the woman is motivated by money or filed the claim to strengthen her pending DUI case.

Her attorneys say not so -- she reached out to them early and the decision to file a claim has taken an emotional toll on their client.

"Once we looked at everything, we realized that we had what we thought was sufficient information to file a notice of a tort claim and we did," said the alleged victim's attorney Jeff McKinnie.

Her attorneys add Wright also called their client a couple times after the two met.

This notice of tort claim is just to notify county leaders the woman may file a civil suit, something she has two years to do.

According to the claim, she would be asking for $1.5 million.

Her claim triggered a Boise police investigation, whose officers forwarded findings to the Ada County prosecutor's office.

Due to a conflict of interest, the Gem County Prosecutor's Office was asked to review the case.

Tuesday, the Gem County prosecutor told us he's asked Ada County for more information and could take a couple weeks to determine whether or not Wright acted criminally.

In a statement, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney said they take allegations of this nature very seriously and placed Wright on leave as a matter of procedure.

He said after being briefed on evidence in the case, they question the motivation of the claim and that his office typically has no liability for acts that do not relate to official duties.

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