Rape victims fight back at city’s attempt to have lawsuit dismissed

rape kit

cMEMPHIS, Tenn. — Three rape victims of serial rapist Anthony Alliano are fighting back after attorneys for the city of Memphis filed a motion to dismiss their federal lawsuit.

Meaghan Ybos, Madison Graves, and Rachel Johnson filed the lawsuit in March. The complaint alleges negligence, deprivation of the victims’ civil rights, emotional distress, breach of contract, gross negligence, violation of equal protection, and violation of due process.

In its dismissal motion, the city said the plaintiffs’ injuries were past the one year statute of limitations – but the victims’ rapes weren’t the injuries referenced in the lawsuit.

The victims made clear in their response that the injury was finding out that the city didn’t test thousands of rape kits, instead letting them gather dust while serial rapists walked free.

They argue the city “actively and intentionally” concealed its mismanagement of rape kit processing, which the plaintiffs learned about in August 2013 – meaning the statute of limitations is August 2014.

In their response, the plaintiffs acknowledge they must prove there was “continued affirmative, fraudulent concealment,” and present the facts to do so.

For more than 25 years, the city hid the fact it wasn’t testing rape kits, and officials denied a backlog existed. However, the plaintiffs argue the city knew it had thousands of untested rape kits sitting in basements and cellars throughout the city. Water ruined thousands of other untested kits.

When WREG first uncovered the backlog four years ago, former Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin took issue with our investigation. Click here to read Godwin’s letter to us about the investigation, and our response.

When the backlog was finally acknowledged in August 2013, the city minimized the issue, saying there were 2,000 untested kits. But just three months later, the city revealed there were actually more than 12,000.

The plaintiffs say due to the city’s misrepresentations, they couldn’t have known “their constitutional rights were violated due to systematic failures and unconstitutional policies.”

Their response to the dismissal motion states, “The defendant attempts to argue that since the kits were finally tested the Plaintiffs rights were not violated. It is manifestly unjust to suggest that after twenty-five years of doing the wrong thing a Defendant can remedy all damages by finally doing the right thing.”

By denying the backlog, the city let the plaintiffs – and thousands of other rape victims – assume their kits had been tested and investigations were underway.

Ybos, Graves, and Johnson say when they asked about the investigations of their rapes, they were given false information. As their response says, the defendant “was in a position of public trust and this fact bears directly on its duty to each victim to not only speak the truth when asked, but to also not remain silent about its misconduct.”

It also argues that by not testing their rape kits, the city violated the victims’ constitutionally protected rights to equal protection, because the sheer number of untested rape kits is “far more than is necessary to make out a claim showing that the city has a custom or de facto policy in effect of treating rapes with less diligence than other comparable violent crimes.”

Click here to read the full response to the dismissal motion.

Shelby County, Shelby County Rape Crisis Center, Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, former Shelby County District Attorney General Bill Gibbons, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, former MPD Director Larry Godwin, MPD Director Toney Armstrong, and Anthony Alliano are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Regarding the motion to dismiss filed in April, here’s a statement from Deputy City Attorney Regina Newman:

“We vigorously researched the law before filing our motion to dismiss, and have presented that law to the court. When considered and applied by the court to the facts, it is our analysis, evaluation and estimation, that our motion should result in the dismissal of the lawsuit.

“The courts and the law define what is allowed to be the basis of a suit against the government and we don’t believe the suit filed by learned counsel in this case, satisfies those rules and requirements. Thus we feel that it should be dismissed.”

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