The Reno City Council approved a $58,000 settlement on Wednesday with a woman who persuaded a federal jury that a city police officer coerced her to strip naked in his patrol car when she was a teenager more than five years ago.
The U.S. District Court jury found the city guilty of negligence in March and awarded more than $100,000 in damages to Elizabeth Eoff but state tort laws capped the negligence damages at $50,000.
With no debate, the council on Wednesday unanimously approved the $58,000 package for damages and legal fees.
Now 22, Eoff first testified against ex-police Sgt. Paul Pitsnogle in 2006 at his state criminal trial on a charge of lewdness. A Washoe County jury cleared Pitsnogle of wrongdoing, but he later was fired as a result of an internal police investigation.
Eoff’s lawyer, Scott Freeman of Reno, said after Wednesday’s city council vote that her “vindication was a long time coming.”
“It is not the size of the award that is important but the principle involved,” he told The Associated Press.
Freeman said he hadn’t talked with Eoff on Wednesday, but knew that she has been doing well since the federal trial in Reno
“It’s actually turned into a success story. She’s had a very successful first year in law school,” he said. He declined to identify the law school.
Eoff, who was 17 at the time of the incident, testified at the civil trial in March that Pitsnogle pressured her to strip naked after he stopped her car at 1 a.m. in April 2006. She said she went along with his suggestions five years ago because she was terrified he might sexually assault her.
A Sparks police detective who was convinced Pitsnogle should have been charged with kidnapping testified she believed he used his “power and authority” as a police officer to intimidate the teen into doing “what he wanted her to do.”
The jury had awarded her more than $100,000 for past and future medical costs resulting from the trauma she suffered due to the city’s failure to properly supervise the officer, who had a reputation for failing to apprise dispatchers of his whereabouts.
William Jeanney, another lawyer for Eoff, said during the five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson that the same Reno city officials who later fired Pitsnogle knew at the time that he routinely broke department rules and had a reputation as a “cowboy out on his own.”
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