Metro-East News

Cahokia woman's lawsuit alleges St. Clair County deputy sexually assaulted her twice

Robert Sneed
Robert Sneed

A Cahokia woman filed a lawsuit Wednesday against a St. Clair County deputy she says sexually assaulted her in her home on two separate occasions.

The woman is also suing St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson and St. Clair County over the alleged incidents, the first of which she says took place in February 2017.

In August 2017, Deputy Robert Sneed was arrested and charged with official misconduct after the woman reported the alleged assaults.

The woman, who filed the suit under the pseudonym "Jane Doe," said Sneed followed her home during a traffic stop in February 2017 and sexually assaulted her. She said he returned to her house Aug. 28 and sexually assaulting her a second time after forcing his way into the house.

The suit requests compensatory and punitive damages for the woman.

The woman’s attorney, Louis Meyer, said the woman has suffered greatly due to the sexual assaults. Meyer said the woman lost her job, cannot sleep at night and, since Sneed has been released from jail, is scared that he is watching her.

"She now has a pit bull that sleeps in her house. She wants to move, she's petrified, she’s looking outside, watching out the windows nervous he's watching her," he said. "She has this paranoia now that she did not have before."

According to the suit, the department and sheriff were aware of Sneed’s emotional problems but allowed him to continue working.

Watson said he was not able to comment Wednesday.

According to Meyer, Watson knew Sneed had been having a difficult time before the criminal charges were filed. Sneed's son died in 2016, and Watson reportedly said he "did not know what was going through Sneed’s head."

The suit alleges Watson’s "lack of regard for and conscious disregard for the plaintiff's safety and security resulted in her sexual assaults."

"They were on notice that he was having emotional difficulties, and the fact that you admit that, yet allow him to have a gun and patrol and put the public at risk … If you have any question about that, it's reckless to put a police officer out there. It’s a difficult job and you want to make sure they are out there in their right mind," Meyer said.

The suit alleges the sheriff’s department as a whole "does not properly remove deputies from the streets that are undergoing emotional and/or psychological issues, thereby putting citizens of St. Clair County at risk of harm."

According to the suit, the woman is also suing St. Clair County because Sneed was an employee of the county at the time of the assaults.

"What happened to her was terrible, and it sounds like it may have been preventable," Meyer said. "I hope he is found guilty and compensates our client by what she was put through by this officer and this department. We don't make any demand, no dollar amount. We are going to let a jury tell us what is a proper amount to award her."

Meyer said he and the woman are also hoping the suit will bring about changes in St. Clair County’s policies for officers conducting traffic stops involving women. He said some departments have protocols in place when a male officer pulls over a woman in order to protect the woman from misconduct, as well as protecting the officer from false accusations.

"Many times, litigation brings about these changes in a positive way. Maybe the sheriff's department will put these (policies) into account," he said.

According to the lawsuit, the sexual assault began when Sneed demanded sexual acts from the woman in exchange for not towing her vehicle. The woman was "extremely scared" because Sneed "was in full police uniform and armed with a gun."

According to a search warrant application by Cahokia police Detective Joe Agles, Sneed followed the woman home after pulling her over, telling her she needed to show him the title to her car.

Once at the woman’s residence, Sneed asked if he could use the restroom, and the woman let him in the house, according to the search warrant application.

After he sexually assaulted her, Sneed left the woman’s home, the application said.

In August, Sneed returned to the woman’s home in his police car and asked her if anyone was home. The woman told him that her sister was on the way home, according to the lawsuit.

The next week, Sneed knocked on the woman's door at about 2 a.m. and pushed his way inside. He was in his full uniform and again armed with a gun, according to the police affidavit.

The woman "stated the deputy immediately walked into her residence when she opened the door. ... The deputy told her 'you know what time it is,'" Agles wrote.

After the alleged assault, the woman went to Touchette Regional Hospital to be examined, and Cahokia police were called.

The accused deputy posted a $2,500 bond Sept. 1 in Monroe County.

He is scheduled to appear in court March 5 for a status hearing in the case.

Watson, the county sheriff, said in September that asking for a car title is not a regular practice during a traffic stop, but officers may need to see the title if the license plate, insurance or registration doesn’t reflect what the driver tells them.

"It’s not routine, it’s far from routine, but you do run into situations when you need a car title," he said, adding that a deputy may then follow a person back to where the title is.

"The thing is, we are not out there to write everyone a ticket," Watson said. "If you are in transition, you could be virtually driving a new car home to get it all legal when we pull you over."