Utah sheriff’s cadet sues, claiming sexual harassment, assaults by ex-supervisor

Dec 8, 2022, 9:31 AM

A Utah woman has filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually abused by a supervisor while she was a c...

A Utah woman has filed a lawsuit claiming she was sexually abused by a supervisor while she was a cadet in the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Academy. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — A Utah woman who says she endured repeated sexual abuse by her supervisor while she was a cadet in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Academy is now suing the county.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 3rd District Court in October and moved to federal court in November, names Salt Lake County, the sheriff’s office, and Brandon Hartley, who used to be the woman’s supervisor until his resignation from the sheriff’s office, as defendants.

The woman entered the sheriff’s academy in April of 2021 and says one of her supervisors was deputy Hartley.

In May, the woman received a friend request on Snapchat from Hartley, according to the lawsuit. The woman says the initial interaction with Hartley seemed normal. As the conversations continued, she opened up about her personal life to him.

“However, as she was a cadet at the academy, these messages slowly began to cross a line from being professional to extremely personal and inappropriate,” the lawsuit alleges.

Hartley soon allegedly requested to see the woman at her residence.

“Once in her home and in private, he changed from being professional to being more flirtatious with her. This put (the woman) in an extremely uncomfortable and awkward position as he was her direct supervisor,” the lawsuit states.

A few days after he had been in her home, Hartley allegedly asked the woman to meet him in a classroom at the sheriff’s office. But as she was following him, he abruptly led her into a closet near his office where he inappropriately touched her, according to the lawsuit, leaving the woman “completely stunned, appalled, scared and traumatized.”

Scared that she would be kicked out of the academy and lose the opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a law enforcer, the woman said she remained quiet about the alleged assault.

A week later, the woman alleges that she was sexually assaulted by Hartley again in a closet at the sheriff’s office. The sexual assaults continued for several more weeks, the lawsuit states, with Hartley at times demeaning the woman and one time saying he would pass her on the physical test that was required for the academy in exchange for a sexual act.

On June 29, 2021, the other academy instructors informed the cadets that Hartley would not be returning for a while. The woman learned that “he was being investigated because a female cadet from the previous year had accused him of something.”

The woman was later interviewed by the internal affairs unit that was investigating Hartley. But she was informed that Hartley had resigned before the investigation could be completed. One of the heads of the investigation “apologized to (the woman) personally but (said) unfortunately hers was a case ‘that slipped through the cracks,'” according to the lawsuit.

The woman also says in the suit that she has attempted to file a police report against Hartley for potential criminal charges, but “each time after the officer or supervising agency she tries to report to discovers the report is regarding defendant Hartley, (the woman) is dismissed and told she does not have a case to report.”

The lawsuit accuses Hartley and Salt Lake County of engaging “in a pattern and practice of unlawful sex discrimination by subjecting (her) to unwelcome sexual harassment.” The woman has also filed complaints with the Utah Labor Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging sex discrimination.

The suit lists several causes of action, including that the woman suffered intentional emotional distress and defamation.

In their response filed Nov. 14 in federal court, Salt Lake County denies the allegations or says it has insufficient information to respond to some of the allegations. The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the lawsuit Wednesday.

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Utah sheriff’s cadet sues, claiming sexual harassment, assaults by ex-supervisor