ST. LOUIS – The $7.5 million awarded to a former St. Louis police officer who was sexually harassed is being called the biggest jury award in Missouri history in a police sexual harassment case.
Former Officer Tanisha Ross-Paige was seen in a picture with her canine partner, Duncan. In 2011, Ross-Paige received a wanted poster by email, which said she was wanted for having "the most dangerous body in the STL" along with other comments about her physical appearance.
The lawsuit claimed that Sgt. Steven Gori, her supervisor at the time, sent the flyer. The suit also claimed Gori asked Ross Paige to sit on his lap, and skinny dip in his hot tub.
Ross-Paige filed a complaint with the police department in June 2011.
The suit also claims then-Lt. Michael Deeba sent an email saying every member of the canine unit feels unsafe working with Ross-Paige, doesn't trust her, and doesn't want to work with her. The email requested the immediate transfer of Ross-Paige.
Jeremy Hollingshead and John Eccher are the attorneys for Tanisha Ross Paige. They say Deeba followed up with a similar email.
"What he testified to is that he did in fact retaliate against Tanisha because she had filed a complaint, and he believed it was without merit. And he made the decision at that time that her career in canine was done," said Eccher.
The jury agreed that Ross-Paige was a victim of sexual harassment and retaliation. They awarded Ross-Paige $300,000 in compensatory damages and $7.2 million in punitive damages for retaliation.
The attorneys believe they won the case because several police officers were caught lying on the witness stand.
"What got this jury riled up is that the police department paraded in police officer after police officer after police officer to tell the company line, to back up the actions of the police department, and many of those witnesses were caught in inconsistent testimony," said Hollingshead.
The attorneys for Tanisha Ross-Paige say their client was contacted Monday by the Internal Affairs Division about an investigation related to last week's trial.A spokesperson for the The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department provided this response: As a matter of department policy, we do not comment on ongoing or pending litigation.