Deputy’s On-Duty Brutal Attack and Sexual Assault Justified Punishment

by | November 30, 2018

Zander v. Orlich, 907 F.3d 956 (7th Cir. 2018)

Deputy Orlich drove Rebecca Zander to the second house, where he turned on the electricity and told her to not return to the other house. About 15 minutes later, Rebecca Zander found Deputy Orlich standing naked inside the house. Deputy Orlich attacked Zander and sexually assaulted her, “committing unspeakable acts,” according to the court. After Deputy Orlich finished his sexual attack, Rebecca Zander crawled into a bathroom, but Deputy Orlich told her she couldn’t stay there. He put her in his patrol car and drove her to her friend’s house, threatening he could make Zander’s life difficult if she reported him.

Rebecca Zander reported the brutal attack and sexual assault the same day and later sued Sheriff John Buncich for Deputy Orlich’s acts, alleging claims of respondeat superior and negligent hiring, training and retention. Deputy Orlich blamed Zander for her “contributory negligence, assumption of risk, incurred risk and/or failure to mitigate damages.”

The appellate court held the sheriff was entitled to qualified immunity for the negligent employment claims because the sheriff had no knowledge that Deputy Orlich was likely to commit similar crimes while on duty and in uniform (well, not in uniform, but his uniform and gun were lying next to him when he committed the attack).

However, the court denied qualified immunity on the respondeat superior claim because Deputy Orlich exploited “unique institutional prerogatives of his police employment.”

Deputy Orlich was charged with official misconduct and allowed to attend impulse control therapy; his charges were dismissed after one year. Sheriff John Buncich disciplined Deputy Orlich by taking away the privilege to drive his patrol car home for a few months and placing him on probation for one year. Deputy Orlich returned to patrol duties on behalf of the sheriff. For more information on the story, click here.

KEN WALLENTINE is the Chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former Chief of Law Enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national criminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

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