Lawsuits from Rollins' rape case cost Anchorage $5.5 million

Disgraced police officer was convicted of sexually assaulting five women.

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 4, 2012 

Former Anchorage Police Department officer Anthony Rollins was found guilty of sexually assaulting five women while on duty.

ERIK HILL / DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

The municipality of Anchorage has paid more than $5.5 million to settle 11 lawsuits that stemmed from the actions of convicted rapist and disgraced Anchorage police officer Anthony Rollins, the city revealed on Tuesday.

The Daily News filed a public records request last week seeking the information.

The settlements resolve all of the claims against the municipality, the city said in a written statement.

Rollins, now 45, was convicted last year of sexually assaulting five women while on duty in 2008 and 2009. Six women testified against him at the trial, but an Anchorage jury found him not guilty of sexually assaulting one of those women, in 2006. He also was found guilty of official misconduct and illegal use of a computer. He was sentenced earlier this year to serve 87 years in prison.

The lawsuits were filed by victims in the criminal case and others who said they also had been hurt by Rollins. The women asserted the municipality failed to supervise and discipline the veteran officer. Allegations in one civil case date back to 2005.

Some of the victims plan to keep pursuing claims against Rollins, who was not part of the settlements, the city said.

$1.7 MILLION PAYMENT

Rollins was a decorated police officer who once received a reward from a prevention organization, Standing Together Against Rape.

Most of the women didn't want to reveal their identities publicly, the facts of their cases, or the amount they received individually, the city said. But the individual settlements are public records and were released.

As a policy, the Daily News does not generally identify victims of sexual assault.

The settlements are structured differently for various women and spanned a wide range in dollar amounts, from $52,500 to $1.7 million, according to settlement documents. Some women will receive monthly payments for 30 years from an annuity paid for by the city.

The higher amounts went to women who had been raped, municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler said. Some had been victimized by Rollins more than once, he said.

"Some of the cases involved first-degree sexual assault and those particulars were described in the criminal trial," Wheeler said.

In other cases, Rollins' behavior wasn't as severe, but the city still agreed to payments to avoid the risk of a jury trial, he said. Women described Rollins physically assaulting or harassing them, Wheeler said, "for instance having the person confined in a police car or the substation, touching them, saying things to them of a sexual nature."

Some of the assaults and touching took place in police substations in Eagle River, downtown and Mountain View. The Mountain View substation was shut down after Rollins' behavior came to light. A new one was opened in the Credit Union 1 branch.

NEVER FULLY RECOVER

Anchorage attorney Christine Schleuss represented five victims, including one who received the biggest settlement amount. They have been through so much, she said.

"I don't know if you ever recover from this," Schleuss said. "They are all valiantly trying."

None of her clients are pursing civil claims against Rollins. His long prison sentence takes care of him, she said.

Paul Stockler, an Anchorage attorney who represented another of the victims, said his client is a young mother who fell apart after being sexually assaulted by Rollins in 2009. A female officer pulled her over for suspected drunken driving, and turned her over to Rollins. He took her to a police substation and raped her while she was handcuffed, Stockler said. She passed a breath test so wasn't even charged.

After that, she began abusing alcohol and drugs, lost her job, and tried to kill herself, Stockler said. Now, with the settlement, she is trying to get her life on track, pay her bills, buy a house.

At Rollins' sentencing in the criminal case, statements written by some of the women were read in court.

"I have such a huge uneasiness that I fear for my life even though this person is in jail," one wrote.

One victim cried when her name was mentioned. Another wore dark glasses in court.

After the Rollins scandal, the Anchorage Police Department took a hard look at itself, and brought in outside experts. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is scheduled to present its review this month.

Besides closing some police substations, the department installed cameras in others. Now if police officers are alone with a suspect, they should be on camera, Wheeler said. And the department has fine-tuned the lie detector system it uses in screening applicants.

"They made drastic changes in the police department to prevent this from happening again," Stockler said.

In addition, the municipality offered fair, quick resolutions to lawsuits that could have dragged on for years, he said. That helps the women move on.

TAXES TO RISE

The settlements will be covered by taxpayers, Wheeler said. The city is self-insured, up to $2 million, and also maintains emergency reserves. Property taxes will go up in 2013 to replenish the funds, but the increase will not carry forward into 2014 or beyond, the attorney said. Taxes to cover lawsuit awards are outside the municipal tax cap, he said.

The city also spent more than $89,000 on a private law firm to manage the lawsuits, which falls below the $130,000 approved by the Anchorage Assembly, according to Wheeler's office.

The city never acknowledged wrongdoing, Wheeler said.

"Obviously, it's a terrible situation for everyone," he said. When one of the victims reported Rollins, the police department "was very quick to institute an investigation, calling hundreds of potential victims -- hundreds of people that had come into contact with Rollins -- and built a case, got him arrested and convicted."

"So APD's been very proactive in trying to clean house," Wheeler said.

But Schleuss noted that the first signs of trouble, including Rollins acknowledging in 2004 that he was having a sexual affair on the job, dated back to years before he was arrested.

If APD had made a case early on, the later rapes could have been prevented, she said.

The women will struggle forever, she said. "Nothing makes up for being sexually assaulted."

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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