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Woman sues Phoenix in officer rape case

Sean Pena case
Posted at 7:24 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 23:07:51-05

PHOENIX — A Valley woman has filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix saying the police department failed to protect her from being raped by an on-duty police officer.

Krystofer Lee, 31, a mother of two, filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court one year after she first reported the sexual assault.

The accused officer, Sean Pena, currently faces criminal charges related to sexual attacks on three women in 2018 and 2019. All of the crimes allegedly occurred in Pena's squad car while he was on duty. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lee said she was walking alone in south Phoenix on June 1, 2019, when she was stopped by several police officers.

"They handcuffed me and told me they were going to take me to jail," Lee said, "I was like, 'For what?'"Lee said then-Officer Pena put her in his squad car and drove her to a vacant lot near 7th and Southern avenues. According to her lawsuit and court records, Pena forced Lee to perform sex acts before letting her go.

"I didn’t think he would ever go to jail, to be honest, because he felt like he could do whatever [he] want to, and he did," Lee said.

Lee's lawsuit claimed the police department could have prevented the rape. Her alleged attack occurred after the first victim had come forward, and supervisors allowed Pena to return to patrol alone. The lawsuit asks the city to compensate Lee for the emotional damage and loss of enjoyment of life since the attack.

"To keep on failing to serve and protect is just not okay," Lee said. "At some point, you need to say what are we doing wrong and help."

"There are three rape victims that need at least an apology for a department allowing them to get raped," said Rev. Jarrett Maupin who is advocating for Lee.

Maupin also called for police Chief Jeri Williams to step down. He asked how she could stand by and "knowingly allow other women of color to be raped, verbally abused, physically abused, molested, disparaged, hunted down quite frankly, and totally dehumanized and violated."

When Lee finally had the courage to report in November 2019, she said the investigators didn't seem to believe her and phoned her best friend. Iesha Stanciel said the police asked her if Lee has a history of mental illness, dishonesty, or child sex abuse.

"The questions they were asking - they were trying to frame it as this is a lie," Stanciel said.

Lee said she never received victim advocate services, and investigators showed up at her workplace unannounced, causing her additional stress.

"I was afraid," Lee said. "I didn't want to say anything at all, but I did because what if it happened to someone else? And it did."

This year ABC15 also investigated multiple sexual assaults against another officer. Anthony Armour.

A woman came forward saying Armour groped and fondled her during a traffic stop. ABC15 also obtained an internal memo showing Armour was previously accused of sexually assaulting a female coworker.

Phoenix police did not sustain either allegation. Armour recently retired with full benefits.

"All fingers point here," Maupin said in front of the Phoenix Police Department. "If this is the way in the fifth-largest city in America in 2020 - almost 2021- which we treat rape victims. My God!"

Pena was fired from the Phoenix Police Department in July, nearly two years after the first woman accused him of sexual misconduct. He had been on administrative leave since shortly after Lee made her report in November 2019.

A Phoenix Police spokewoman, responding to claims in the lawsuit, told ABC15 that the department promptly investigated every sexual assault allegation against Pena.

“The Phoenix Police Department demands the highest degree of integrity and professionalism from all members of the Department and takes all allegations of misconduct against employees seriously.“ Sgt Maggie Cox said in an email.

Got a news tip? Email ABC15 Investigator Melissa Blasius at Melissa.Blasius@abc15.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.