Woman sues former officer, ex-police Chief Harper, city

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A Knoxville woman filed a lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh and a now imprisoned former officer, alleging the man was allowed to continue working for four years even after she filed a complaint against him for soliciting sexual acts from her.

Filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, the complaint also names as a defendant former police Chief Nate Harper.

A message to the city solicitor's office seeking comment was not returned.

The woman said in her complaint that she initially met former Officer Adam Skweres when he responded to a call for a stolen purse in 2008. She then saw him again that year in court, the complaint said,

"Defendant Skweres demanded that she accompany him outside the courtroom for a private conversation that lasted 10 to 15 minutes, during which he demanded sexual favors from [Christie] Leonard and threatened retaliation if she refused," the lawsuit said.

She claims that she felt physically intimidated by Skweres, who was then a police officer in Zone 3.

The complaint goes on to say that the officer told the woman he knew she was involved in a custody dispute with the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families and that he'd write a positive letter on her behalf if she did oral sex on him.

If she refused, the complaint says, he said he'd write a negative letter, and her three children would be taken from her.

She refused.

Although she didn't go to the police, the lawsuit said, the woman told her counselors, family members and staff at CYF about what happened.

After learning of a similar threat to another woman, the plaintiff spoke with a detective with the city's Office of Municipal Investigations and made a report.

The woman was interviewed and took two separate lie-detector tests, which, the complaint said, she passed.

It wasn't until January 2012 that the police bureau contacted her again, and she then met with an FBI agent.

Skweres was arrested a month later and this week pleaded guilty to all 26 counts against him involving five separate women. Among the most serious counts were charges of attempted rape and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

He was sentenced to 31/2 to eight years in prison, to be followed by 10 years' probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Alan Perer, alleges that the bureau took no action against Skweres even after complaints were made by Ms. Leonard in 2008 and another victim in 2009. The city also knew that he failed his initial psychological exam, the complaint said.

"He should've never been in a position of police authority based on the information we have," Mr. Perer said. "Why was he allowed to remain on the force for another four years?"

The complaint accuses the city and the police chief of failing to properly train its employees and allowing the illegal activity to continue.

"There's involvement of the whole police system there that allows this guy to go out and prey on these women, and no matter how many times they report it, they don't do anything."

The lawsuit includes claims for civil rights violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.

"We rely on the police. If somebody else did this to our client, and somebody threatened her and demanded sexual favors, you would hope the police would get involved," Mr. Perer said. "But when it's a policeman doing that, who do you turn to?"

neigh_city

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. Rich Lord contributed.


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