BENTON — In a response filed Wednesday to a federal civil suit against him, Nicholas Gaines, a West Frankfort police officer, is denying the sexual assault and battery allegations being leveled against him during his tenure with the Mount Vernon Police Department.
A federal lawsuit was filed in October on behalf of a Mount Vernon woman who alleges that Gaines cornered her in her garage while in uniform and made unwanted advances, including lifting her shirt, kissing her and touching her buttocks.
Because of the sexual nature of the allegations, The Southern is not identifying the plaintiff.
The incident was originally investigated by the Illinois State Police and was sent to the appellate prosecutor’s office in Springfield for review. There have not been any criminal charges brought against Gaines through that office.
As previously reported, a major complaint form filed Oct. 30, 2016 by the Mount Vernon Police Department lists the sexual assault allegation as “sustained” and “pursuing criminal charges (ISP).”
The summary of the incident in the complaint form indicates that Gaines “initiated contact” with the woman at her home to “inquire about her driving status.” The complaint states Gaines said he saw the woman driving and believed her license to be suspended. After the initial visit ended, the report indicates the woman smiled at Gaines, who then used Mount Vernon Police Department Spillman records to acquire her cellphone number, "which he used to ask her about the smile.”
The report says Gaines later returned to the woman's house to discuss a possible location in the house where drugs were stored. After the woman went with Gaines into the garage, the alleged assault took place.
“She said he pulled up her shirt to see her bra. She said he identified her bra as ‘Victoria Secrets’ brand, which it was. She said Corporal Gaines then turned her around, pulled up her panties, and also incorrectly identified them as ‘Victoria Secrets’ brand,” the document states. The account goes on to indicate that the woman said she “became uncomfortable, began to panic, did not ask to be touched, and tried walking out of the garage away from Corporal Gaines.”
The document states when she tried to leave, “Gaines grabbed her, prevented her from leaving the garage, pulled her back to him and told her he was not done.” The document states the alleged victim indicated he then began kissing her. The document said while Gaines was “forcing her to ‘French kiss’ she bumped his radio, causing a squelch break.” The timeline alleged that while Gaines was responding to a status check, she got away.
In the response filed by Gaines’ attorney, Bryan Drew, Gaines indicates that he did kiss the woman, but only after she kissed him. He denies that the activities were without consent.
“Defendant admits to flirting with the plaintiff after she started attempting to pursue him ... Defendant admits to touching the back of Plaintiff’s head after she kissed him ... Defendant admits to kissing Plaintiff after she kissed him,” the document states. It also states that Gaines admits to putting his tongue in her mouth.
In the document filed by Drew, Gaines denies lifting the plaintiff’s shirt, touching her chest and buttocks, reaching down her pants and “otherwise manipulating Plaintiff’s clothing.” It also denies that he tried to keep her from leaving. The response also denies admitting to investigators that he lifted the woman's shirt, touched her chest and otherwise manipulating her clothing.
However, in the account of Mount Vernon Police Capt. Jeff Bullard, who conducted the internal investigation, Gaines admitted to kissing the woman, touching her on the chest, and to her shirt being lifted by either herself or him to show her tattoos. He also said Gaines said he was interested “in pursuing something intimate, which later the same day he regretted. He said (the alleged victim) wanted to see him again but he had not had any other contact with her since 10/20/16.”
According to PACER, an electronic court record system, there is not a hearing date scheduled in this suit.