Tort claim filed on behalf of former Bear Lake softball coach accused of sex crimes
This story comes courtesy of EastIdahoNews.com. It is used here with permission –
By Kalama Hines, EastIdahoNews.com –
PARIS — The attorney representing a former Bear Lake High School softball coach accused of sexually abusing one of her players says he intends to file a second notice of tort claim in the coming days.
Kristian Beckett, who represents RiLee Lutz, told EastIdahoNews.com that he has not received a response regarding a first claim filed naming Bear Lake County Sheriff Bart Heslington. That claim alleges Heslington engaged in defamation, malicious prosecution and witness intimidation and harassment.
A notice of tort claim is a legal filing that informs a government entity of someone’s intention to file a lawsuit. The entity can respond to the notice and attempt to settle the suit without involving the legal system or ignore it and wait for the lawsuit.
According to Beckett, Heslington learned of an alleged sexual relationship between Lutz and the purported victim through an audio recording. In the recording, which Beckett said was made after the victim’s 18th birthday, the victim “brags” to friends that Lutz is her “sugar momma.”
Beckett said Heslington then spoke with the victim, who denied any type of sexual contact between her and Lutz. When she did, Beckett said, the sheriff told the victim that he had videos and photos that prove the relationship occurred.
“(Heslington) ultimately cajoled her into saying, ‘OK, sure.’” Beckett told EastIdahoNews.com. “If they have photos and videos, they haven’t produced those to me.”
An affidavit of probable cause obtained by EastIdahoNews.com does make note of photos and videos that allegedly show Lutz and the girl “making out.” However, the affidavit later says, “I was never able to locate or confirm the existence of this video/picture.”
Furthermore, Beckett said that since he took on Lutz’s criminal and civil cases, he has been informed that the person who “theoretically” told the sheriff they had the photos and videos has said he does not actually have such proof.
“The thing that frustrates the heck out of me is, in Idaho, that is intimidation. He’s intimidating her. He’s a police officer that’s telling her something exists that doesn’t exist in order to get her to agree to his narrative,” Beckett said.
In a second notice of tort claim Beckett plans to file soon, he alleges illegal search and seizure. Beckett said Heslington and his office unlawfully obtained a search warrant to obtain Lutz’s Snapchat and text message history.
In doing so, he adds, the investigation proves his case.
Investigators received 23 Snapchat messages exchanged between Lutz and the purported victim. All of them were about the softball team, Beckett said, with the vast majority being group messages that included other players.
The text messages between the two, he added, did not start until after the victim was 18. And like the Snapchat messages, none reference a relationship or an inappropriate relationship.
“That’s inconsistent with information that police officers shared,” Beckett said.
Beckett did say, though, that while Lutz and the victim, who was 18 at the time, were co-coaches, the two did kiss briefly. But, he added, the kiss was initiated by the other woman before Lutz stopped the “unwanted advances.”
“The allegation that anything happened before is just completely false,” according to the attorney.
Beckett said that the first notice of tort claim was filed in May. If he does not get a response, he expects to file the lawsuit by the end of the month.
He expects the second claim will be filed by Friday. He said these proceedings are required in order to prevent the Bear Lake County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies from intimidating witnesses and destroying people’s reputations.
“It’s going to always happen. It’s going to continue to happen unless somebody stands up and says, ‘This isn’t OK.’”
EastIdahoNews.com requested a comment from Heslington but has not received a response as of Friday morning. We will update this story if we receive one.