Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ketchum police chief faces civil suit

Allegations linked to 2002 investigation of Elizabeth Smart kidnapping

Express Staff Writer

Cory Lyman

Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman has been named as a defendant in a civil suit filed by the widow of a former kidnapping suspect in the Elizabeth Smart case.

Angela Ricci filed the suit on behalf of her late husband, Richard Ricci, who died in 2002. Lyman worked for the Salt Lake City Police Department at the time and served as lead investigator in the Smart case.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Utah, accuses Lyman of unlawful use of police authority in connection with that case. The suit will be heard in federal rather than state court because the plaintiffs are suing under a federal civil rights statute.

The lawsuit claims violations of Ricci's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. The 14th amendment mandates that no state can deprive a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law and that they must give everyone equal protection of the law.

According to the complaint and demand for jury trial document, Lyman "ignored the forensic evidence and improperly pursued an investigation against Mr. Ricci, with malice, and falsely accused Mr. Ricci of kidnapping (Elizabeth Smart) when they possessed information knowing it to be contrary or recklessly in disregard of the clear weight of the evidence."

The suit also alleges that Salt Lake City falsely accused Richard Ricci to satisfy the public's need to identify a suspect.

"Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, Mr. Ricci became the city's scapegoat," the suit says.

Ricci was an "easy target" to blame because he was a convicted felon and was on parole, according to the suit.

While incarcerated on an alleged parole violation, Ricci was required to wear a leash and hood during escorts around the prison, the suit claims. He was denied adequate meals and deprived of hygiene and personal care, the suit alleges, which resulted in Ricci's wrongful death while in confinement.

Ricci's cause of death was determined to be a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Elizabeth Smart went missing from her Salt Lake City home in June 2002. She was found with homeless street preacher Brian David Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee in a Salt Lake suburb approximately nine months later. Criminal proceedings against the pair are ongoing.

Angela Ricci has also sued the Utah Department of Corrections and the Salt Lake City Police Department alleging wrongful death and other civil rights violations.

She reached a $150,000 settlement last year with the Corrections Department, which denied wrongdoing. Her lawsuit against the police department is pending.

Ricci's attorney, D. Bruce Oliver, could not be reached for comment.

Lyman was out of town early this week and unavailable for comment.

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon took a wait-and-see approach to the litigation.

"I have no knowledge if it will affect his position with the city of Ketchum," Simon said. "I suspect not."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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