A Little Rock dentist's federal lawsuit claiming five Little Rock police officers, an Arkansas State Police investigator, a former dental patient and her mother conspired to maliciously prosecute him in a sexual-abuse case was thrown out of court Tuesday.
The dentist, Jose Turcios, filed the lawsuit Nov. 21, 2017, more than a year and a half after a Pulaski County jury acquitted him in April 2016 of second-degree assault. The charge stemmed from the girl's allegations that he assaulted her on March 4, 2015, when she was his patient.
Turcios, represented by attorney Mike Laux of Little Rock, complained in the lawsuit that he had been a victim of malicious prosecution, civil conspiracy and violation of his due-process rights, for which he sought both compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit alleged that the conspiracy began after the girl's mother reported the sexual-assault allegations to police on March 9, 2015, leading officer Tabitha McCrillis, who is now known as Tabitha Carter, to supply an affidavit that resulted in Turcios' arrest on March 12, 2015.
After being cleared in his criminal trial, Turcios participated in an administrative hearing at which he contested state police investigator Andrea Carter's separate findings that he had committed child maltreatment, according to court documents. But the hearing officer found by a preponderance of the evidence -- a lesser standard than that of beyond a reasonable doubt, which jurors used in the criminal case -- that Turcios sexually abused the girl. The hearing officer ordered Turcios' name to be placed on the Arkansas Child Maltreatment Central Registry, which he didn't appeal.
In an order Tuesday dismissing Turcios' federal lawsuit in its entirety, U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes said the dentist "has subjected the investigation of these officers and the credibility of the witnesses against him to a withering critique. Nonetheless, his evidence against the officers proves nothing more than negligence or gross negligence. He has presented no evidence that any investigating officer prompted [the girl or her mother] or anyone else to make false allegations against him. He has presented no evidence that any officer coerced any witness to testify against him. His evidence points to gaps in the investigation and information that the officers should have pursued but not to intentional or reckless misconduct by the officers."
Turcios alleged that the arrest warrant wasn't based on probable cause, but Holmes said Carter prepared an affidavit that accurately reported what she had been told by the girl, her mother and grandmother, and another woman who had voiced a similar complaint about Turcios. Holmes said a judge found that the affidavit established probable cause, and that any arresting officer "was entitled to rely on that finding by the judge unless the affidavit was so lacking in ... probable cause as to render belief in the legitimacy of the warrant entirely unreasonable."
While the dentist alleged that Carter made material misrepresentations or omissions in the affidavit, he doesn't identify any misrepresentations nor show that she intentionally omitted anything important, Holmes said.
Turcios' arrest led to the suspension of his dental license for a few weeks, until he reached an agreement with the state Board of Dental Examiners for reinstatement of his license on the condition that someone else be present whenever he was with a patient, Holmes' order said. In the lawsuit, Turcios alleged that his due-process rights were violated when the board suspended his license as a result of a news article reporting his arrest.
Holmes said Turcios is essentially claiming that his license was suspended as a result of malicious prosecution, but because malicious prosecution isn't a basis for a due-process claim, his claim regarding the suspension also fails.
In addition to Tabitha Carter and the state police officer, Andrea Carter, the suit named as defendants Little Rock officers Brandon Eggerth, Jared McCauley, Brian Dunger and Michael Lundy, as well as the girl and her mother.
Metro on 01/23/2019
Print Headline: Acquitted Little Rock dentist's suit over abuse case tossed; judge finds no malicious prosecution