There are major developments in the ongoing South Bend Police Department tape scandal.
For nearly six months, only one side of the story has been told, but on Wednesday, a seven-page federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court, changed that.
The suit's plaintiffs include St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett and Lt. David Wells, South Bend Police Department Division Chief Steve Richmond, Capt. Brian Young and his wife Sandy Young.
Those accused of wrongdoing include former South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins, former Communications Director Karen DePaepe, her private attorney Scott Duerring and the City of South Bend.
The litigation, which began with a June 11, 2012 tort claim, seeks to amend all five plaintiffs’ rights under the Fourth Amendment and federal wiretapping statutes. Under Indiana state law, the City of South Bend had 90 days to respond to the tort claim, but chose to ignore it.
According to the suit drafted by Jeffrey McQuary of Brown Tompkins Lory in Indianapolis, Darryl Boykins directed Karen DePaepe to intercept and record Steve Richmond’s private office telephone. The request, which came without a court order, was allegedly carried out in Feb. 2010. However, in pursuing the task, DePaepe accidentally tapped Brian Young’s phone line instead; Young had recently moved into Richmond’s office.
The grievance continues in claiming DePaepe discovered her error a full year later in Feb. 2011, at which point she successfully intercepted Richmond’s correct phone line. Between both sets of recordings, all five plaintiffs say they were recorded multiple times discussing police operations, personnel changes at SBPD and in some cases, personal life matters.
The suit reads, “The interception and recording of plaintiffs’ calls was not part of any law enforcement investigation and was not conducted in the ordinary course of SBPD’s business. Rather Boykins used the recording to determine whether his division chiefs were personally loyal to him and to punish anyone who might seek the job of Chief of Police.”
On Jan. 1, 2012, Mayor Pete Buttigieg took office and announced plans to interview candidates to appoint a new police chief. Those interviews included sit-down meetings with Richmond and Corbett.
Then on Jan. 6, 2012, the complaint says Boykins summoned Richmond into his office and “berated” him for “disloyalty” and for being a “back-stabber” for disparaging his name during his sit-down interview with Buttigieg.
It was at that meeting, the suit alleges, Boykins told Richmond about his recording scheme and added he’d, “Fire anyone he determined to be disloyal to him based on the contents of the recordings.” A plan DePaepe allegedly also attested to less than two weeks later.
Feeling a sense of invasion, all five plaintiffs filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Jan. 19, 2012, citing their role as “victims” in an illegal wiretapping arrangement.
"I feel like this is the first time someone is standing up and telling their side of the story. Their side of the story will be heard in the courts because they are victims, they did nothing wrong,” attorney Daniel Pfeifer said about his five clients during an invite-only media conference.
After all, it’s long been rumored the contents of the illegally recorded tapes were racist in nature, a statement Wednesday’s suit directly mentions.
“After her termination, DePaepe and her attorney, Scott Duerring, gave several interviews in the media in which they stated that the recordings of plaintiffs’ telephone conversations capture plaintiffs making racial slurs about Boykins.”
Not true, the seven-page legal filing states, citing a conversation Richmond had with Boykins in which the now disbarred chief said he made-up the slur allegations because his, “feelings were hurt.”
"I can't think of a stronger would than difficult, impossible maybe." They have wanted to tell their side of the story, but following the advice of their counsel and waiting for things to take the proper course, they have refrained from commenting." Pfeifer added.
In a written statement released to NewsCenter 16, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, "These allegations make it all the more important for us to concentrate on finding outstanding new police leadership. Our officers and citizens deserve leadership that puts the focus where it belongs; fighting crime and serving our diverse community."
Looking ahead, all four defendants have 23 days to respond to the pending lawsuit.
Duerring and Boykins' attorney, Tom Dixon, both say the claims made in the lawsuit simply aren't true.
"Our response is going to be filing a counter claim for damages against the plantiffs listed in the complaint, including punitive damages and attorney fees based on filing what we would consider a frivolous claim," Duerring said on behalf of himself and his client.
Dixon said he also plans to take legal action once he's formally served with papers.
"The legal allegations from those conclusions are misplaced and we're going to respond appropriately with a complaint," Dixon said. "And, that will likely be with sanctions for bringing forward frivolous allegations."
If you'd like to read the entire federal lawsuit for yourself, just click on the document icon above this story.