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Deputy files $50m lawsuit over topless photos

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A Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the department claiming a male detective took topless photos of her for use in an online pedophile investigation, but the photos can no longer be accounted for and she has no way of knowing how the photos were ever used or who viewed them.

Krystal G. Rice filed state Supreme Court action Monday at the county clerk’s office against the department, Sheriff John P. Burns, Lt. Michael S. Peterson and Detective Steven C. Cote claiming she was “exploited” by Mr. Cote when she was allegedly taken to a secluded location in 2006 and photographed in “various stages of undress” without another female officer present.

The suit claims that Mr. Cote told her there was an official need for the photos as part of an investigation into online pedophiles. Ms. Rice claims Mr. Cote told her that another female deputy had previously posed for photos, but more were needed. She claims she was shown photos of the other deputy in cut-off shorts and a halter top, leading her to believe she would be similarly attired.

She claims that the action was approved by Lt. Peterson and a contract was drawn up that set conditions of how the photos would be used and stored. She claims the contract, which also allegedly can no longer be found, stated that only one copy of the photos would be kept on a floppy disk and that the disk would be secured by Mr. Cote, with no one else having access. Ms. Rice claims that she was to approve any picture used in an investigation and she could have the sole copy of the photos back “at any time she asked.”

However, she maintains that when she began asking for the disk in February 2009, the department was unable to produce it nor the contract. In March 2009, she claims Lt. Peterson told her that Mr. Cote “destroyed the disk so you have nothing to worry about.” She claims she has never been able to ascertain how or when the disks were destroyed and is concerned that copies still exist.

Ms. Rice claims that she asked Lt. Peterson again in January about the disks, at which time she was allegedly told that no topless photos should have been taken of her by anyone in the department, let alone a male detective, and that any photos that were shot should have been taken within the department’s offices with a female present.

Ms. Rice claims she had only been a deputy for a few months and, although uncomfortable with posing topless, deferred to the more experienced deputy because she believed he knew what type of pictures he needed for his investigation.

She is claiming, among other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress because she is unable to determine who may have viewed the photos or whether they still exist and a breach of duty by the department’s administrators for, among other things, not informing her that topless photos should not be taken of her or that the photos should not be taken away from the office.

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