Metro-East News

Former Southern Illinois cop kissed, groped woman while on duty, lawsuit says

A Mt. Vernon police officer has been accused in a lawsuit of kissing and groping a woman while he was on duty.

A woman filed suit Friday against former Mt. Vernon police officer Nicholas Gaines and the city of Mt. Vernon, alleging that Gaines sexually assaulted her after he came to her home for the purpose of obtaining her driver’s license status.

Attempts to reach Gaines for comment were not successful.

Upon a department investigation, Gaines said he used police resources to obtain the woman’s cell phone number, then called her “several times in an effort to meet (the woman) because she smiled at him,” the lawsuit says.

That same day, Gaines returned to the woman’s house on the premise of conducting a police investigation, according to the suit. Once at the woman’s home, Gaines said he flirted with the woman, kissed her, lifted her shirt and touched her chest. He said he wanted to turn her into a drug informant for police department purposes, and wanted to pursue a personal, intimate relationship with her, the suit alleges.

The woman alleges that Gaines restrained her and didn’t allow her to leave his presence, according to the suit. She escaped when squelch noises from his police radio distracted him, the suit says.

The department’s police chief put Gaines on administrative leave during an internal investigation. He resigned Nov. 9, 2016, 10 days after the alleged assault, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also includes the city of Mt. Vernon because other people have made “confirmed complaints” against Gaines for sexual harassment and other acts of conduct unbecoming for an officer, according to the suit. It says the department should have known Gaines had a “propensity for the sexual harassment of women, and has shown deliberate indifference to remedy the propensities or otherwise adequately train Gaines in a matter that would have prevented his tortious conduct toward (the woman).”

The suit alleges negligence on the part of the department for failing to train, supervise and discipline officers properly. Mt. Vernon Police Chief Chris Deichman said he was not aware of any other sexual assault complaints involving Gaines. However, once the department was notified of this matter, Deichman said they immediately notified Illinois State Police to conduct an investigation.

Gaines violated the woman’s 14th amendment rights, the lawsuit says, and inflicted emotional distress upon her, as well as sexually assaulted and battered her, while restraining her.

In June, Gaines was hired full-time at the West Frankfort Police Department, where he had been working with a temporary appointment since January, the West Frankford Gazette reported. The department now is aware of the accusations against Gaines, Chief Mike Irwin told the BND, but was not aware of them when Gaines was hired.