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Utah woman claims sexual harassment by former officer, cover-up by his department

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A Saratoga Springs Police car is parked in Utah while on duty. A Utah woman claims in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted by a Saratoga Springs police officer and that his department ignored her complaints and conspired to run her family out of town.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A Utah woman claims she was sexually harassed by a Saratoga Springs police officer and then run out of town by his department and city leaders who tried to cover up for his actions.

Chantelle Jones, 49, along with her attorney Robert Sykes, filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday against Saratoga Springs, its city manager, police chief, assistant police chief and former officer Kevin Norris. The suit, which seeks $4 million in damages, accuses the defendants of sexual harassment, discrimination against women, conspiracy and unlawful seizure.

The police department and city leaders engaged in a pattern of malicious conduct against Jones and her family beginning in January 2019 shortly after the Jones family moved to Saratoga Springs, according to Sykes. He said about six months after she moved in, someone began shooting BBs at the Jones' windows and even at her.

"There were windows being shot out with BBs, multiple times, including her car windows (and) two or three different windows in her house. Tires were slashed. Her car was keyed. There was stalking, people following her. She was shot by BBs in the face and collarbone," Sykes said. "The dog was poisoned. She got a letter in the mail with a white substance on it."

Jones also says her garage was covered with graffiti and she was run off the road by another vehicle. She showed pictures during a press conference on Tuesday of injuries to her eye and collarbone as well as shattered windows of her car and house, all allegedly caused by BBs or pellets.

She reported the incidents to the Saratoga Spring Police Department, which Jones says was initially helpful. But by March 2019, Jones said she felt a shift in the attitude of the police toward her and her family.

"Then it seemed like all of a sudden there was this talk within the police department, that they all of a sudden got this theory going on in the police department that it was me. And then started becoming slower and slower to come to calls and then they started just not taking evidence. And we saw a shift in the police department. They just had a different attitude toward us," she said.

According to the lawsuit, the assistant police chief "explained he was 'tired of her' and that he wanted Chantelle 'run out of the city.'"

Jones claims she was constantly harassed by officers and couldn't leave her house or go anywhere without an officer quickly pulling up behind her and following her.

She also began to notice that whenever she reported a new incident to police, Norris was the officer who showed up to her house most of the time. At first, Jones said Norris led the family to believe that he was their friend and that he was "on her side." But by June 2019, Norris "used his position of power over Chantelle to sexually assault her on two occasions" and told her that if she reported him that "she would suffer further adverse police action," according to the lawsuit.

"Norris' actions were a planned effort to manipulate Chantelle into believing that he was the only person who could protect her. Norris' intentions were to place himself in a position of power over her so that he could take sexual advantage of her," the lawsuit alleges.

Jones did report Norris' alleged behavior to his superiors, but Sykes says her complaints were ignored.

"They basically said (she and her husband) were making it up," he said, while adding that Jones was told that "boys will be boys, so suck it up."

Sykes contends the department's behavior "was based upon malicious stereotyping of women."

"Basically the belief that women are irrational, hysterical and hypersensitive. That they overreact, that they're spiteful, that they have ulterior motives or are untruthful when they report harassment. And that women send mixed signals to men and that they're often at fault for men who sexually harass or abuse them," he said.

Jones says the community was turned against her family and they finally were forced to move to Bluffdale. But Saratoga Springs also provides police coverage for Bluffdale.

She claims a former detective provided her evidence that there was a conspiracy to run the family out of town and that police reports were doctored. Now, she says she's going public with her story so it doesn't happen to another family.

"This is not something I want to do as far as … it's hard to put myself out there in this way. However, for other people, I don't want anyone to ever experience what our family has gone through. Our entire life, basically, was destroyed because of Saratoga Springs," Jones said. "That department is corrupt and needs to be cleaned up."

A spokeswoman for Saratoga Springs on Tuesday said the city just found out about the lawsuit and declined comment because no one had had a chance yet to fully read the complaint.

According to the lawsuit, Norris resigned from the department in March after illegally accessing information on Jones' family and relatives using police databases.

"Norris was allowed to harass, threaten, stalk and intimidate Chantelle for almost two years until action was finally taken," the lawsuit says.