Rape lawsuit against city of Muscatine and police department thrown out

MUSCATINE -A lawsuit filed against the city of Muscatine and its police department over a police officer who raped a woman on duty has been thrown out by a judge.

Officer Tom Tovar was convicted in 2017 of raping an intoxicated woman after her boyfriend was arrested for driving under the influence.

A judge this month ruled that Tovar can be sued, but the city and police department can not.

"While other states have reached the decision that cities may be held vicariously liable for sexual assaults committed by on-duty police officers, the Iowa Supreme Court has not yet made that determination," wrote Stuart Werling with the Seventh Judicial District of Iowa.

"The ruling did not go our way. My personal opinion is I'd like to see the police department held liable for officers who rape women or do criminal acts on duty," said attorney Leanne Tyler, who filed the civil lawsuit.

In his ruling, the judge said while Tovar had a history of disciplinary problems and suspensions while working for the Muscatine police department, none involved sexual assault.

He said there was no evidence the city or police department had reason to know Tovar would sexually assault someone.

The judge however, said there was evidence that Tovar had sexually assaulted another woman while on duty. He said the woman was at the police station to sign paperwork regarding a car accident. He said the woman says Tovar grabbed her and "handcuffed her to the desk" and sexually assaulted her.

But, the woman never reported the assault because she was afraid, and didn't come forward until after Tovar had been arrested for rape.

Tyler says she plans to appeal to the Iowa State Supreme Court.

"I hope Iowa comes down on the side that police departments are responsible if they have an officer who commits a crime on duty of this nature," she said.

Tovar remains in prison.