Friday, November 13, 2009

Today's Herald Tribune

Since we learned about this motion I've been holding off commenting. I am doing my best to restrain myself from saying anything unladylike. It's unbelievable. "Special Relationship"? What's that? I just cannot understand how the sheriff's department, namely Bill Cameron (who was in charge the night Denise died) refuses to accept any responsibility for this debacle. He and the sheriff before him (John Davenport) and their cronies truly do not believe they did anything wrong and are doing anything wrong. It's unconscionable. No apologies. No nothing. They just want to wash their hands of the whole thing. "She would have died anyway" according to John Davenport. They would have swept the entire incident under the rug if Jane Kowalski had not persisted in her phone calls to the North Port Police Department and had we not read the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs report. sigh.

Here's an article from today's paper by Jason Witz with the Herald Tribune.

Sheriff's Office wants Lee suit thrown out

By JASON WITZ Correspondent

Published: Friday, November 13, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 11:58 p.m.

CHARLOTTE COUNTY - Nathan Lee's wrongful death lawsuit against the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office should be thrown out because the agency gave no specific promises it would protect his wife, a motion released Thursday stated.

In a 13-page motion filed in Charlotte County circuit court, lawyers for the Sheriff's Office argued that 911 workers did not make "assurances to provide assistance uniquely responsive" to a key witness who reported seeing Denise Lee with her captor.

The motion asks a judge to dismiss Nathan Lee's lawsuit seeking damages from the Sheriff's Office in the murder of Denise Lee after her January 2008 kidnapping and rape. A hearing date for the motion has not been set.

The Sheriff's Office contends it would not be liable in Lee's death because no "special relationship" existed with her compared with the general public.

Although the operation of a 911 communication system is part of law enforcement services provided to the public, the agency is liable only when a special relationship is created, the motion states.

The Sheriff's Office contends that such relationship would exist only if, through employees, it makes assurances to provide assistance uniquely responsive to someone, and the person relies upon those assurances to his detriment, according to the motion.

Without that relationship, the attorneys contend, a governmental agency's duty to protect a person cannot be subject to a suit.

Lawyers say there is "no factual basis" to suggest any Sheriff's Office employees made any special promises during its 911 call with Tampa resident Jane Kowalski, who saw Denise Lee in the back of her abductor's car, near the Charlotte-Sarasota County line, pleading for help. Call takers failed to alert deputies, who were patrolling nearby.

Nathan Lee's suit accuses Sheriff Bill Cameron and his employees of being negligent in investigating the abduction of Denise Lee and contributing to her death.

Denise Lee, 21, was later found buried in a shallow grave in North Port, a few miles from where Kowalski had seen her in the car driven by unemployed North Port plumber Michael King, who awaits sentencing for his conviction for murder, kidnap and rape.

Lee is seeking a jury award of more than the statutory limit of $200,000. He said the motion seems contrary to the motto "To serve and protect."

"I'm just extremely frustrated," he said.

The Sheriff's Office is arguing it "had no duty to protect Denise," Nathan Lee added. "I definitely think the citizens of Charlotte County should be concerned about that."

Cameron said the agency would not comment.

Sheriff's Office lawyers say Kowalski was never told to take any action other than observe King's vehicle, court documents show.

But Lee's suit alleges that the Sheriff's Office's handling of Kowalski's call prevented her "from taking other action to help Denise Lee, thereby increasing the risk of harm faced by Lee."