Local woman sues Muscatine and police officer who allegedly raped her

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A civil lawsuit has been filed in the case of a former Muscatine, Iowa police officer charged with raping an intoxicated woman while he was on duty.  Shari Martin of Bettendorf, Iowa is suing ex-policeman Tom Tovar and the City of Muscatine for "damages arising out of unlawful and wrongful conduct" while in uniform.

Martin could have filed the suit anonymously under the Iowa Rape Shield Law but, she says, she is taking a stand on the stigma associated with sexual assault.

"I want people to know this happens to regular people and I'm done. I don't want to be a victim anymore. I want to come out and say I have nothing to be ashamed of. I did nothing wrong, and I was not able to consent," Martin said.

Martin was a passenger in her boyfriend's car when he was  pulled over for OWI in Muscatine on February 16th, 2013.  Court records and police reports indicate the boyfriend was taken to jail and booked, and that Officer Tovar took Martin back to the hotel where she was staying.

Martin says she had been drinking Long Island iced teas and shots all night, and she doesn't even remember being in his squad car.  She woke up hours later, naked and in a fetal position on the bed.

"I realized I was naked. I don't sleep naked. I started having a flashback. I came to and said, 'Oh my God, there was a police officer laying on me,'" Martin said.

A police investigation was launched. Semen matching Tovar's DNA was found in Martin's pants and on the hotel bedding.  According to court filings in the criminal case, Tovar was unaccounted for in the hotel for 13 minutes.

Tovar told investigators that Martin was so ''drunk he had to help her carry in all  of her items," and that Martin's room key was broken so he also spent time going to the front desk to get a new key.  According to the court documents, Tovar later recanted the story about the broken room key, telling investigators he was kidding.

"He admitted that he had lied about the room key, but did so because he thought it would be funny," the document states, quoting an investigator.

Tovar, who is married, now says there was sex, but it was consensual.

"I have never, would never, consent to having sex with someone I do not know. Never. The fact that I was inebriated, how could I consent to anything willingly? That's just ridiculous," Martin said.

The criminal case is on hold pending motions filed by Tovar's defense attorney, Murray Bell. According to briefs filed with the Iowa Appellate Court, Bell wants to admit evidence at trial that Martin had sex with her boyfriend the night before and the morning after the alleged sexual assault.  Martin says that's true, but it has nothing to do with what happened that night.

"I expect they are going to do their best to make it look like a female vixen kind of thing," Martin said.

Davenport attorney Leanne Tyler filed the civil suit on behalf of Martin on February 4, 2015, eight days before the statute of limitations would run out.Martin vs Tovar lawsuit (WQAD Photo)

"It's a suit seeking personal damages for what happened to my client, it also seeks punitive damages against Thomas Tovar. Those are damages sought because what happened is so egregious. It's sort of like a punishment, a message. It's very important that people in positions of authority, and positions of trust, are held accountable for a significant breach whether that be physical or sexual assault," Tyler said.

Martin says she is still dealing with the aftermath, but still remembers little of what happened. "I remember a dark haired officer laying on me. I don't remember anything else. Just that.  It makes me sick. I feel sorry for his family, but my family's been through hell, too. I hope he never takes advantage of anyone again."

2 comments

  • WendyWhiner

    Good for you, Shari Martin. Stay strong. I’m just shocked (am I really, though?) that there were no criminal charges against the officer…at minimum for lying about the room key.

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