MILWAUKEE (CN) – Milwaukee’s failure to remove a rapist from its police force will cost the city $2.5 million in a civil settlement, according to a letter from the city attorney.
Iema Lemons sued the city, the police chief and Ladmarald Cates, a former officer who is now serving a 24-year federal prison term for violently raping her after she called to report vandalism to her home, the 2013 complaint states.
Although Cates was the subject of multiple complaints regarding his on- and off-duty behavior, prior to July 16, 2010, the date of Lemons’ rape, he was not removed from the force and remained in daily contact with the public while performing his duties.
Complaints against Cates included a domestic violence arrest for choking and pushing his girlfriend, who was also a police officer, and accusations of sexual misconduct made in 2005 against Cates by a female inmate.
Cates was again accused of sexual misconduct in 2007 after a woman arrested for theft claimed he had sex with her in a jail cell after promising he would get her released if she complied. Her case was eventually closed without proper investigation, Lemons claims in her suit.
Lemons asserts in her lawsuit that Cates qualified as a sexual predator, since the first allegation involved a female inmate who was severely intoxicated and the second involved one who was clearly mentally ill, and that “Sex with a prisoner constitutes criminal sexual assault.”
Also in 2007, Cates was accused of sexual misconduct while on duty, this time with a minor, but again the witness was considered unreliable. Police Chief Edward Flynn, who had by then replaced the former chief, admitted while being deposed that the allegations against Cates were “disturbing,” but did nothing to discipline him.
When officers responded to Lemons’ call in 2010, they did not address her complaints of bricks being thrown through her window, the complaint states. Instead, they arrested her brother, and while he and Cates’ partner was in the squad car, Cates cornered Lemons in her bathroom.
Cates was armed when he repeatedly ordered Lemons to perform oral sex on him.
“She was afraid he would kill her if she did not comply with his demand and that, as a police officer any story he invented to cover such use of force would be believed,” the complaint states.
While he forced Lemons to perform oral sex, Cates “shov[ed] his fingers into her vagina,” then strangled her as he forced his penis inside her vagina, according to the complaint.
After she collapsed on the porch following the rape, the officers arrested her, falsely claiming she had assaulted Cates’ partner. On the way to the police station, officers ignored her repeated requests for help and claims she had been raped.
When she arrived, Lemons was handcuffed to a table, and Cates was allowed to enter the room, according to the complaint.
“Cates threatened Iema that other police officers would attack her if she continued to claim she had been raped,” the complaint states. “He also told her that, if she withdrew her claim, she would only get a ticket for her alleged criminal conduct…Cates told her that, even if she continued to say he raped her, he would only get suspended.”
Though that had been the case in the past, this time Flynn fired Cates for his sexual misconduct, albeit five months after the rape.
During an internal affairs investigation that followed Lemons’ rape accusation, Cates lied and said he had no sexual contact with Lemons, but later changed his story and admitted to on-duty sexual contact, claiming it was consensual.
Though the Milwaukee County district attorney declined to pursue charges, the U.S. Department of Justice took up the case, resulting in a 24-year prison sentence for Cates in 2012.
Deputy City Attorney Miriam Horwitz, who frequently handles police misconduct claims against the city, has asked the Milwaukee Common Council to approve a $2.5 million settlement in Lemons’ civil suit, which will absolve all parties in the case.
“As the matter proceeded to the January 9, 2017 trial date, mediation resulted in a proposed settlement of 2.5 million dollars, inclusive of all claims for damages against all parties, and inclusive of attorney fees and costs,” Horwitz’ Jan. 13 letter states. “The City Attorney now recommends settlement of this matter for the total sum of $2.5 million as recommended by the magistrate judge.”
A voicemail left with the Office of the City Attorney before business hours Tuesday was not immediately returned.
Lemons’ attorneys declined to comment.