Lawsuit claims HCPD leadership failed to act on detective's sexual assault allegations

Lawsuit claims HCPD leadership failed to act on detective's sexual assault allegations
Former Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes. (Source: HCPD)
Former Deputy Chief Scott Rutherford (Source: HCPD)
Former Deputy Chief Scott Rutherford (Source: HCPD)
Captain Dale Buchanan (Source: HCPD)
Captain Dale Buchanan (Source: HCPD)
Former HCPD employee William "Chip" Squires, now with the Horry County Sheriff's Office. (Source: HCSO)
Former HCPD employee William "Chip" Squires, now with the Horry County Sheriff's Office. (Source: HCSO)

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Former Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes is one of several high-ranking members and former members of the Horry County Police Department named as defendants in an amended lawsuit filed Tuesday by an alleged victim of sexual assault by a former HCPD detective. The suit claims HCPD leadership knew of the allegations, but failed to prevent his interactions with female victims of violent crimes.

The plaintiff, named Jane Doe 2 in the lawsuit to protect her identity, alleges former Detective Allen Large attempted to coerce her into participating in nude "catfights" with other local women, including other victims of violent crime, on camera. The suit also alleges that Large continued to make inappropriate contact with Jane Doe 2, including a sexual assault in his HCPD vehicle, even after a written reprimand from the department.

Another alleged victim of Large filed a lawsuit earlier this year, also claiming that he sexually assault her. Footage and transcripts of a five-hour pre-trial deposition of Large suggest that he also developed a sexual relationship with a third victim, who is also expected to file a lawsuit against him.

The newly-amended lawsuit names former Police Chief Saundra Rhodes, former Deputy Chief Scott Rutherford, Sgt. Thomas Delpercio of the Major Crimes Unit, former HCPD Lt. William Squires, and Captain Dale Buchanan of the Criminal Investigations Division as co-defendants to Large. The suit alleges that these HCPD employees all possessed knowledge that Det. Large was the subject of prior investigations into allegations of sexual assault, had prior disciplinary actions against him, and "was not qualified to safely investigate and/or meet with potential female victims, including the Plaintiff," yet took no action to terminate him or prevent his interactions with female victims of violent crimes.

"Defendants Rhodes, Rutherford, DelPercio, Squires and Buchanan, as Detective Large's supervising and commanding officers, possessed the power to prevent actions of Detective Large," the suit states. It goes on state: "…Plaintiff alleges Defendants authorized Detective Large's actions by consciously and intentionally failing to act or intervene."

The lawsuit states that Jane Doe 2 "has been subject to sexual assault, physical and psychological injury; has endured and will endure mental anguish and emotional distress has incurred medical bills, and will incur medical bills in the future; has been deprived of the enjoyment of her life, thereby entitled her to an award of actual, consequential, punitive damages, costs and reasonable attorney fees."

He said the incorporation of supervisors on lawsuits is common, but he said it's more of a procedural matter. He said he doesn't anticipate her involvement in the lawsuits as they move forward in through the legal system.

Rhodes abruptly retired from HCPD on May 6, 2016 after being appointed to the position in 2012, and having served for the HCPD since 1993. She has not given a reason for her decision to retire. Documents obtained by WMBF News show that Horry County paid over $60,000 into the state's retirement system so that Rhodes could enjoy full retirement status and benefits.

Five days after Rhodes' retirement, Deputy Chief Scott Rutherford announced his retirement, effective June 6. Rutherford started on the police force on June 4, 1991, and was promoted to Deputy Chief of Support by then-Chief Rhodes in 2012.

In addition to former Detective Large, several other former HCPD employees are under investigation by larger law enforcement entities.

Over 80 cases, many involving rape, child abuse and assault, had to be reopened after an investigation revealed former Detective Daryl Williams did not address the cases fully, or addressed the cases inappropriately. A WMBF news investigation last year revealed Williams left after an internal investigation led to his demotion. In that investigation, we learned Williams never investigated 41 percent of his rape or child abuse cases. One of his 123 victims asked us why he wasn't fired. Chief Rhodes acknowledged a delay in how the case was handled, and said changes were made in the department.

Within the past month, Rhodes disciplined two more detectives, both on the same day. Records obtained by WMBF News show Rhodes fired Lucas Green and suspended Tim Troxell. Both disciplinary records shared the same incident date from two years ago.

Due to redactions by Horry County in the police records, it is unclear why Troxell was suspended. He's since resigned from the position.

Police records show Green was terminated for not writing up a report after using a choke hold, and knocking out the tooth of a suspect during an undercover prostitution operation from two years ago.

In the letter of termination, Rhodes said Green's actions were in violation of department policies.

This latest lawsuit was filed by the Evans Moore Law Firm. Attorney James B. Moore declined to comment, but has previously provided this statement: "We believe this detective preyed on the most vulnerable of women, exploiting his police badge to keep them quiet. It's downright shameful. I applaud Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 for shedding light on this injustice. Unfortunately, we expect more women to come forward in the coming months."

Reporter Conor McCue spoke with Large on several occasions, and he said he couldn't comment until he is formally charged, but did maintain his innocence.

When asked for comment after another suit was filed, Saundra Rhodes gave a brief statement through her attorney, Burt von Herrmann: "I have not been served this lawsuit and am unaware of the allegations. I welcome the opportunity to defend myself."

Horry County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier provided this comment when asked about the lawsuit, "It is County policy not to provide any commentary on matters relating to any pending litigation."

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