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ACLU wants to hold city of Nome in contempt for withholding evidence in bias lawsuit

The entrance to the Nome court house. (Photo by David Dodman/ KNOM)
The entrance to the Nome court house. (Photo by David Dodman/ KNOM)
The entrance to the Nome court house. (Photo by David Dodman/ KNOM)
The entrance to the Nome court house. (Photo by David Dodman/ KNOM)

The American Civil Liberties Union wants a federal court to hold the city of Nome in contempt – for allegedly withholding police audits and emails in a legal case against the Nome police department. 

(Editor's note: The plaintiff’s name is publicly available via court documents. As a standard policy, KNBA does not name sexual assault survivors without their permission.)

In 2017, a 911 operator with the Nome Police Department reported to her supervisors that she had been sexually assaulted.

Last year, the ACLU of Alaska filed a lawsuit against Nome and the police department on behalf of the operator, who is Iñupiaq – saying the police department failed to provide equal protection in her case.

The complaint said that for more than a year, Nome police did not investigate her case – and “valuable evidence was lost because of the delay.”

It also said the 911 operator’s case was just one example of the department’s mishandling of sexual assault reports involving Alaska Native women.

On September 9th, the ACLU filed a motion asking an Alaska federal court judge to agree that the city is acting in bad faith -- for ignoring a court order to turn over evidence in the case.

In fall 2018, the police chief named in the lawsuit declined to renew his contract. 

According to the ACLU’s initial complaint, in 2018 when the new police chief took over he began reviewing the department’s sexual assault cases. He discovered that nearly half of the cases he reviewed at that time had not been adequately investigated. Some didn’t even have a report. 

The complaint goes on to say that more than 90 percent of sexual assault cases the department reviewed were filed by Alaska Native women.

The lawsuit names the city of Nome, the then-police chief and a police lieutenant who took the 911 operator’s initial case.

In November 2020, ACLU filed requests for evidence in the case – including all related audits. In July of this year, a judge granted the motion to compel the city to turn over that evidence.

In addition to seeking sanctions against Nome, the motion filed September 9th also said the city turned over 7,000 pages of material that are not relevant to the case.

Requests for comment from ACLU and the city of Nome were not returned in time for this story.

Copyright 2021 KNBA. To see more, visit KNBA.