Former officer sues NIU, police department

Fired officer says cops conspired against him in rape case

DeKALB – Former Northern Illinois University police officer Andrew Rifkin filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the university and a group of officers he claims conspired against him in a sexual assault case.

Rifkin is seeking more than $50,000 in damages and legal fees from the NIU Board of Trustees and NIU police officers Donald Grady, Kartik Ramakrishnan, Jason John and RaMon Holland.

Bill Nicklas, NIU’s director of public safety, said the department would review the lawsuit and determine whether action is necessary.

“We will take that seriously,” Nicklas said of the claims against officers. “There will be an appropriate response.”

Rifkin, 25, was charged in October 2011 with sexually assaulting a female student with whom he had a relationship while he was a member of the NIU police force. On Oct. 28, 2011, the woman contacted NIU police to report the alleged rape, which she said took place Oct. 14, 2011, in Rifkin’s Cortland apartment. Rifkin was fired a few days later; he had been hired June 17, 2011, and graduated from the police academy Sept. 23, 2011.

On Nov. 3, 2011, two other NIU students went to the NIU police station, where they gave signed, written statements to NIU police, in which they said the victim in the case had discussed her ongoing consensual relationship with Rifkin and said no assault occurred.

NIU police placed the witness statements in Rifkin’s personnel file and never gave them to prosecutors or defense attorneys.

When the existence of the statements was uncovered by a private investigator working for Rifkin’s defense, Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert called it a flagrant violation of police procedures. In November she ruled that jurors would learn of NIU police officers’ evidence mishandling if the criminal case against Rifkin went to trial.

Rifkin’s suit claims the officers intentionally withheld the witness statements and had Rifkin sign a written statement that was inconsistent with Rifkin’s verbal account of events.

Bruce Brandwein, Rifkin’s attorney, said there was unethical and possibly criminal intent in the officers’ actions. Brandwein said they clearly misled Rifkin when he signed a report he believed was a transcript of his verbal account of the episode.

According to the lawsuit, John and Ramakrishnan transcribed Rifkin’s verbal statement on a computer screen that Rifkin was allowed to read. John then prepared a written statement that was not consistent with the verbal account.

The written statement, which Brandwein said Rifkin signed without reading carefully, said that he continued to engage in a sex act with the victim after she asked him to stop. John also used that statement when testifying to a grand jury.

“I just know my client has been through a lot with this situation,” Brandwein said. “He trusted the guys in his department.”

Holland was named in the complaint for telling the woman who made the sexual assault allegations to not speak to anyone except the NIU Police Department about the situation.

NIU spokesman Paul Palian said he could not comment on pending litigation. Campbell did not return messages seeking comment and DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack was not available, but has declined comment on pending cases in the past.

Michael Fox, who represents Grady, said he has not reviewed Rifkin’s lawsuit against his client. He said a counterclaim against Rifkin could be filed. As for Grady’s status with the university, Fox said he hopes to know more within “days or weeks.”

“There is zero, none, nada evidence that Chief Grady had anything to do with misplacing anything,” Fox said. “I can’t figure out what [the university] is saying he is doing that is a violation of his contract.”