Judge tosses most of lawsuit focused on sexual assault cases

BALTIMORE (AP) — A federal judge has tossed out most claims in a lawsuit filed by five women over the way Baltimore County authorities handle sexual assault cases.

The women said they were assaulted by students of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in incidents between 2014 and 2017, The Baltimore Sun reported Friday. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow’s order this week dismissed all claims against the university and the county.

Chasanow’s decision allows one woman to proceed with her claim that two county police detectives and State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and others in his office violated her First Amendment rights by trying to stop her from filing charges on her own after they declined to prosecute her case.

Shellenberger and a spokesman for the police department declined comment to the newspaper, citing the pending litigation. A county government spokesman also declined to comment.

The lawsuit alleges unfair treatment of female victims of sexual assault in the county, saying the county has discriminated against women through “witness intimidation and destruction of evidence.” It says county police destroyed the rape kits of 650 women between 2010 and 2018.

The women also accused UMBC and its police department of failing to make accurate public reports of sexual assault “in order to conceal these crimes and shield male perpetrators from prosecution.”

Chasanow ruled that their lawsuit “fails to state a viable claim” except in the case of the First Amendment issue, the newspaper reported.

Last year, Chasanow dismissed a previous version of the lawsuit, writing that it was an “overambitious pleading” and that the women hadn’t shown they had a case on various claims. She allowed them to file another complaint, which they did.

In the latest ruling, Chasanow again described the lawsuit as overly broad.

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