BOISE, Idaho — The woman a Boise police officer was accused of raping in October made statements helpful to his case that lawyers say deputies omitted in the reports filed about the incident, according to a letter from the officer’s attorney. The letter also claims the county is not being forthcoming with the Boise Police Department’s internal investigation of the officer.
The Idaho Press reports the officer, Eric Simunich, 43, a 19-year Boise police veteran, was charged with rape in connection with the events of the night of Oct. 13 and the early hours of Oct. 14. Deputies, prosecutors and Simunich’s own attorneys agree Simunich and the woman — who prosecutors say he met online — went to dinner that evening, then returned to her house. She would later tell Ada County Sheriff’s deputies that Simunich raped her and, when she fought back, he left her with bruises; she lost a nail during the fight while reaching for her phone, John Dinger, of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, would later say in court.
Days after the woman reported the incident, a judge issued a warrant for Simunich’s arrest, and Simunich turned himself in to the Ada County Jail. Magistrate Judge Daniel Steckel set Simunich’s bail at $250,000.
After that, the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office cited a possible conflict of interest in handling the case, as Simunich was a Boise police officer, and handed the case to Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs’ office. Loebs asked the charges be dismissed and, at the end of October, a judge granted the request, dismissing the case without prejudice. That meant prosecutors could file charges again if they felt it was necessary. Loebs told the Idaho Press he didn’t feel there was adequate evidence to move forward. Deputies kept investigating, but Loebs confirmed in February that, with the investigation complete, he didn’t feel there was enough evidence.
The April 13 letter from Simunich’s lawyer, T. Guy Hallam Jr., to Ada County and the county sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices serves as a notice of tort claim, according to the document, obtained by the Idaho Press through a public records request. A tort claim is a legal filing from one party, notifying another party damage has been done. It can precede a lawsuit. Simunich’s attorney wrote Simunich could file against the county for the county’s “failure to properly train and supervise employees and negligent infliction of emotional distress.”
According to the letter, there was a point in the woman’s interactions with deputies when she said she did not feel like she was raped or that she was forced to have sex.
“This statement is clearly captured on Deputy Dominguez’s body cam video where the woman explicitly states: ‘I don’t feel like I was raped, like he forced me...,’” according to the letter. “She also noted in her comments to investigating officers that she never told Officer Simunich to ‘stop’ the sexual encounter which occurred in her bedroom and bed.”
The woman also told deputies she bruises easily, according to the letter.
“Inexplicably, and in clear violation of police policy and the right of an accused to be informed of exculpatory evidence and information, (sheriff’s office) personnel including Deputy Dominguez and Detective Salazar omitted from their police reports any mention of the exculpatory statements of the woman,” according to the letter.
Exculpatory evidence is evidence that might be helpful to a defendant’s case. Prosecutors must hand over exculpatory evidence to defendants even if not asked for it, per a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland.
The letter also claims a representative from the prosecutor’s office and a detective from the sheriff’s office didn’t make mention of the woman’s comments when they obtained a warrant from a magistrate.
Prosecutors say they didn’t review the deputies’ body camera footage until Oct. 18, according to the letter — the day after Simunich was arraigned in court and had his bail set at $250,000.
“In acknowledgement of the exculpatory nature of the woman’s statements to the investigating officer, shortly after reviewing the body cam video, (prosecutors) ‘checked and ensured’ that Officer Simunich was ‘out of custody,’” according to the letter.
Not long after that, Ada County prosecutors “drafted but did not file a pleading which outlined the failures of Ada County to properly disclose exculpatory evidence throughout the process, while also attempting to justify, the charging and arrest documents.”
The office referred the case to the Twin Falls Prosecuting Attorney’s Office at some point after that. By Oct. 23, prosecutors there had moved for the case’s dismissal; the judge granted the motion the next day.
Simunich has remained on paid leave throughout the whole process, and was still on paid leave as of Monday, according to the Boise Police Department. Haley Williams, department spokeswoman, previously told the Idaho Press the office needed to wait for the conclusion of the criminal investigation before it could begin its own internal investigation.
The letter from Simunich’s attorney claims, however, that “Ada County has not been forthcoming with documents and information requested by the Boise Police Department so that (the department’s) Office of Internal Affairs can move forward with its administrative investigation.”
“Completion of the (internal) investigation is necessary before Officer Simunich can return to work. However, Ada County appears to be putting roadblocks in the way of BPD moving forward, which may be evidence that Ada County is further attempting to harm Officer Simunich or that Ada County is attempting to avoid producing information which might further reveal the nature of the missteps in the arrest and prosecution,” according to the letter.
Currently, Simunich’s economic damages as a result of being charged are roughly $85,000, according to the letter, but attorneys expect “the emotional distress and reputational damages claims will greatly exceed Officer Simunich’s economic loss.”
When asked about Simunich’s filing of a tort claim earlier in the week, Ada County spokeswoman Elizabeth Duncan said she could not comment on pending litigation.
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