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City pays $10,000 to settle suit over ex-cop’s comment

[02/22/01] Vicksburg officials have paid a woman $10,000 to settle her lawsuit, yet avoided saying in court papers whether a Vicksburg police sergeant made the derogatory comments on which the suit was based.

Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann signed the settlement on Jan. 25. Although a public document, it has not been in court files. South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb said today he thinks the whole case just became finalized with all signatures and that’s why no records were on file.

He declined further comment.

In the document, signed by a Jackson attorney hired by the city, officials agree to pay Lorie G. Stevens $10,000, but admit no liability.

According to the police report, Stevens, 36, and her four children were shopping for a new house on July 18, 1999, when two assailants tied up her children, raped her and beat the man who had the Sky Farm Avenue home on the market.

A civil suit filed on her behalf said that then-police Sgt. Carl Houston, during a prewatch meeting with fellow officers, indicated that the sex should have been enjoyable for the victim, but used far more explicit and race-based terms. Houston, who voluntarily left the department in May 2000, but is eligible for rehire, wrote to The Vicksburg Post that no such comments were made.

Stevens now lives in Virginia. Family members said city officials rather than Houston were sued because Mayor Robert Walker and Alderman Gertrude Young took no disciplinary action after the family reported what they’d been told of Houston’s comments.

Walker and Young have made no comment other than to say they wanted the case settled. The signed agreement does that, releasing the city and Houston from any responsibility.

Police arrested two men in the attack on the family. Their trials have been moved out of Warren County. Circuit Judge Frank Vollor set 24-year-old Romika Perkins’ trial for April 9 in Columbus. The trial of Derrick Warren, 18, was set for May 21 in Greenwood.

A second civil suit, filed last January by Stevens and her former husband, Joe Stevens, is asking for unspecified damages from Glen Triplett, who was showing the house for sale. That suit claims that he should have secured the premises before Stevens and her children arrived to view the house. That suit was set to go to trial Jan. 16, but was continued. A new trial date has not been set.

In an additional police-related case, the city is being sued in federal court for wrongful arrest by the family of Dr. James Ruggles.

In that case, it is alleged narcotics officers had been told by District Attorney Gil Martin that Ruggles had not broken a law by dispensing Valium to an employee, but Ruggles, who died at Thanksgiving, was arrested anyway.