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Update on Porn Star Costume Ball Sex Assault Case

from www.sfgate.com – A photographer who said she was sexually assaulted by two Sacramento firefighters at the Porn Star Costume Ball in 2004 can’t hold the city responsible, a state appeals court says.

The woman, who was not named in Monday’s ruling, based her damage suit on a 1991 state Supreme Court decision that said a city could be held liable for a rape by an on-duty police officer. But the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento said the 1991 ruling was a dubious departure from legal doctrine and should apply only to law enforcement officers.

The firefighters’ alleged assault “was motivated for strictly personal reasons not related to their duties,” Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland said in the 2-1 ruling, which upheld a judge’s dismissal of the suit.

In general, Scotland noted, public agencies are responsible for employees’ misconduct only when it is part of the workers’ job duties. The state Supreme Court said in 1991 that a city gives its police so much power that it could be held accountable if an officer abused that power and committed a sexual assault.

In contrast, Scotland said, the firefighters “had no coercive authority” over the woman.

The 24-year-old plaintiff was taking photos at the costume ball in a Sacramento hotel in July 2004. She said the two firefighters had invited her to their truck, where they trapped her and forced her into sexual acts before she escaped.

Her suit alleged that the Fire Department had a policy of allowing firefighters to take fire trucks to bars and parties. She also said one of her assailants had been on duty.

Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye cited the alleged policy in her dissenting vote to keep the suit alive, saying such a policy would make sexual assaults foreseeable.

Deputy City Attorney Chance Trimm said the Fire Department denied having any such policy. He said the two firefighters maintained that the woman consented to sexual acts.

One of the alleged assailants resigned two weeks after the incident while on administrative leave, Trimm said. He said no criminal charges were filed.

The woman’s lawyer was unavailable for comment.

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