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Her superiors did know that he was engaging in conduct that is clearly sexual harassment, and Detective Cote has not been disciplined.

Attorney for Sheriff's deputy describes alleged harassment on the job in $50 million suit

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A female Sheriff's deputy has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the Jefferson County department, over racy photos she says were taken of her as part of an online pedophile investigation. The lawsuit is about to proceed to the next phase, and the deputy and her lawyer are calling for an independent investigation. Joanna Richards has more.

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Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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Jefferson County Attorney David Paulsen is set to interview the plaintiff, Deputy Krystal Rice, on May 16.

Rice alleges in the lawsuit that Deputy Steven Cote took photos of her in various stages of undress for him to use in his MySpace profile, where he posed as a 15-year-old girl to try to catch pedophiles. Now the photos are missing and so is the contract that specified how they would be used.

Charu Narang is the attorney representing Rice in the lawsuit. Narang says after taking the photos of Rice, Cote tried to pursue a relationship with her and when she refused, he contacted her boyfriend's mother and defamed her.

Narang (0:14): Her superiors did know that he was engaging in conduct that is clearly sexual harassment under any guidelines, and to my knowledge, and also to my client's knowledge, Detective Cote has not been disciplined. 

David Paulsen is the Jefferson County attorney. He is defending the county against Rice's allegations. County administrator Robert Hagemann referred questions about the case to him.

(0:42):

Reporter: Is it ever appropriate that a male deputy would ask a female to be photographed topless in the Sheriff's Department?

Paulsen: Well, that goes to the merits of the case, which I really can't speak to at this point. We're still in the stage of investigating.

Reporter: But, I mean, whether or not it actually happened in this case, you can't even say that, you know, on its surface, it would be inappropriate for a female deputy to be photographed topless as part of her work duties?

Paulsen: Well again, I don't want to jump to conclusions as to how it happened or why, other than to say that is the purpose of my investigation.

In addition to pursuing the lawsuit, Narang and Rice have called for an independent inquiry into the allegations, something Sheriff John Burns told the Watertown Daily Times he would support. But no inquiry has yet begun. Paulsen says it's too early.

Paulsen (0:17): Until I have a chance to evaluate, you know, what the other parties, what other members of the Sheriff's Department involved were, and report that back to the Board of Legislators, it's really premature to discuss, you know, what else might need to be done. 

Narang says two days after she filed the lawsuit, she received a threatening phone call from a man who said he was closely connected with the Sheriff's Department.

Narang (0:12): Saying that, if I don't drop the lawsuit, then every time I drive my car, I will be pulled over, and that it will be very difficult or impossible for me to practice law in New York state.

She says she hasn't been pulled over since receiving the call. She says she and Rice are serious about their allegations and won't back down.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm Joanna Richards in Watertown.

 

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