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Snyder v. Albaugh

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 7, 2016

SAMANTHA SNYDER, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON ALBAUGH Detective, ROBERT HESSION Detective, TROY BACON Chief, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          SARAH EVANS BARKER, United States District Judge.

         This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 114], filed on October 7, 2015. For the reasons detailed herein, we hereby GRANT Defendants' motion and enter judgment in their favor.

         Factual Background

         This cases arises out of an alleged sexual assault occurring in April 2012 and the ensuing investigation conducted by officers in the Frankfort Police Department. Plaintiff Samantha Snyder claims that, after suffering a sexual assault at the hands of three men- Dakota Beard, Eli Smith, and Trey Crockett-she was denied equal treatment under the law by Defendants Detective Robert Hession and Major Jason Albaugh when they intentionally mishandled the assault investigation to avoid charging the suspects with whom they had personal relationships.

         A. The Sexual Assault

         Snyder has alleged that on April 4, 2012, after taking a large dose of Klonopin, [1]she attended a party at the home of Eli and Rodney “Boomer” Smith where Boomer offered her an “unknown substance” to drink. Thereafter, he escorted her to his bedroom where she began to feel sick and lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, Dakota Beard, Eli Smith, and Trey Crockett, were restraining her and sexually assaulting her. Although her ability to resist the sexual assault was hampered by the lingering effects of her intoxication, she eventually succeeded in leaving the bedroom and the party, and immediately contacted her father, Brent Snyder, for help, who in turn contacted the Frankfort Police. Snyder was then taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Frankfort, Indiana.

         B. The Investigation

         The Frankfort Police Department dispatched Det. Robert Hession to the hospital to undertake an investigation into the alleged sexual assault. Det. Hession interviewed Snyder, which session he described as “unclear, sometimes inconsistent and sketchy.” Hession Aff. ¶ 7.[2] Later that morning, he also interviewed Caira Bolen and Sara Ummel, two friends of Snyder's who had attended the April 4, 2012 party. According to Det. Hession, both Caira and Sara contradicted Snyder's version of events, reporting that Snyder was “flashing” the men at the party and “giving [them] shots from her boobs.” Sara said she saw Snyder go into Rodney “Boomer” Smith's room for approximately half an hour, after which Boomer reported that he and Snyder had had sex. Both Caira and Sara also reportedly saw Snyder enter Eli Smith's room with Dakota Beard. Each friend offered her own opinion as to Snyder's consent.[3] Det. Hession also interviewed Brittany Hoffman, another party-goer who had been told by Sara Ummel of Snyder's sexual assault allegations.

         After taking these statements, Det. Hession traveled to the neighborhood where the party had taken place, where he found Boomer Smith, Eli Smith, and Dakota Beard. All three agreed to return to the police station with Det. Hession to give statements regarding the party and alleged assault. Eli Smith told Det. Hession that Snyder had been “messed up” on pills and that he had witnessed her having what he believed to be consensual sex with Dakota Beard during the party. He denied seeing anyone else have sex with her and denied having had sex with Snyder himself. He also voluntarily provided a DNA sample. Dakota Beard also described Snyder as being “messed up, ” “drunk, ” and “stumbling around” at the party. He said that Snyder had led him to a bedroom where they engaged in consensual intercourse. Caira Bolen thereafter entered the bedroom and struck Snyder in the face. Beard helped Snyder clothe herself and laid her down on the couch. He too volunteered to provide a DNA sample. Boomer Smith described Snyder as “hammered” and “pilled out” at the party. He denied having had sex with her and refused to provide a DNA sample.

         Later that afternoon, Det. Hession returned to St. Vincent Hospital where he informed Snyder's parents that the statements of those he had interviewed did not support Snyder's version of events, and he requested to have another interview with Snyder. By this time, the Clinton County Victim Advocate, Fran Lanum, had arrived and Snyder requested that he be present for any further interviews. Based on that request, Det. Hession declined to conduct a second interview of Snyder. While at the hospital, Det. Hession obtained Snyder's rape kit and entered it, along with the DNA samples taken from Eli Smith and Dakota Beard, into evidence at the police department.

         Ten days later, on April 14, 2012, Det. Hession interviewed with Trey Crockett, who stated that Snyder and Boomer Smith had left the party together for about half an hour and that he (Crockett) had later seen Snyder lying naked in a room with Eli Smith and Dakota Beard, both of whom admitted to Crockett that they had had sex with Snyder. Crockett denied having had sex with Snyder himself and claimed to have left the house party just after seeing Eli and Dakota with her.

         On April 19, 2012, out of growing concern and frustration with the investigation, Samantha Snyder's parents lodged a complaint with the Frankfort Chief of Police Troy Bacon. Snyder maintains that her father informed Chief Bacon that both Det. Hession and his supervisor, Maj. Albaugh, had personal relationships with the suspects, which were hampering the investigation. Chief Bacon denies having been informed of any conflicts of interest and maintains that Brent Snyder complained only of Det. Hession's implication that the sexual assault may have been consensual, his premature conclusion of the investigation's outcome, and his lack of thoroughness and professionalism in investigating the case. Chief Bacon summarized those complaints in a memorandum he directed to Maj. Albaugh.

         Four days later, on April 23, 2012, Maj. Albaugh spoke by phone with Brent Snyder, during which conversation they discussed Mr. Snyder's complaints. Mr. Snyder informed Maj. Albaugh that no DNA sample had been taken from Boomer Smith. Thereafter, Maj. Albaugh directed Det. Hession to obtain a DNA sample from Boomer, either voluntarily or by search warrant. On May 2, 2012, Boomer volunteered to provide a DNA sample upon request. After receiving notice that the rape kit and all accompanying DNA samples were ready for transport, Maj. Albaugh delivered the evidence to the State Police Laboratory for forensic testing.

         On May 3, 2012, Det. Hession submitted his case report together with copies of the recordings of all the interviews to the prosecutor's office. The next day Brent Snyder contacted Det. Hession to inquire about the progress of the investigation and to advise him that Trey Crockett had reportedly been making inconsistent statements about the assault to one Courtney Mooneyhan, the owner of a local consignment shop. Upon learning this, Det. Hession spoke with Mooneyhan, who told him that Crockett had suggested that Eli Smith and Dakota Beard may have “taken advantage” of Snyder during the party. Thereafter, Det. Hession spoke directly with Crockett, who told Hession that he had not seen Boomer have sex with Snyder, that he had “caught a glimpse” of Dakota having sex with her, and that he had seen Eli Smith lying in bed with her. He also stated that he assumed all of the sex was consensual despite Snyder being clearly intoxicated at the time.

         Sometime thereafter, Det. Hession was again contacted by Brent Snyder, who had a copy of a recorded a conversation he had had on his cell phone with Crockett. Det. Hession maintains that the recorded conversation did not reveal any new evidence, but that he nevertheless forwarded the recording to the prosecutor's office along with his other investigative interview recordings. Ms. Snyder maintains that at multiple points during the recording, Trey Crockett indicates that Ms. Snyder could not have consented to having sex.

         Months later, on August 6, 2012, Det. Hession received notice from the State Police Laboratory that Boomer Smith's DNA sample had been positively matched to the DNA found in Snyder's rape kit. Det. Hession contacted the prosecutor's office and was instructed to conduct another interview of Boomer. During the August 15, 2012 interview, Boomer told Det. Hession that he wished to “take back” his prior statement, whereupon he admitted to having had sex with Snyder on the night of the party, but he represented that it had been consensual. He also stated that he had previously lied because, at the time of the party, he was in a relationship with Maj. Albaugh's stepdaughter, Autumn Dick, who was unaware that he had had sex with Ms. Snyder.

         Following the interview, Det. Hession transmitted this information to the prosecutor's office and informed Mr. Snyder that any future inquiries regarding the case should be directed to that office. Thereafter, Dep. Prosecutor Laura Zeman informed the Snyder family that they would not be pursuing charges against ...


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