In defenses filed against the sexual harassment suit brought by Asheville Police Department Officer Cherie Byrd — attorneys for both the APD and Byrd’s former superior, Sgt. Eric Lauffer, admit Lauffer sent explicit text messages to Byrd that include “I must licky you” and “You have just been phone fucked!” but they deny any wrongdoing in the case.
“Admitted: that Lauffer forwarded texts with the described content to members of the [Drug Suppression Unit, where Byrd worked], including the Plaintiff. The remaining allegations [contained in Byrd’s assertions about the texts] are denied,” reads the defense’s rebuttal to two points of her allegations.
Just what contents does the APD admit that Lauffer sent? Byrd’s suit asserts, and Lauffer’s defense admits, that the following was sent by Lauffer: “By way of example, and not of limitation, one text featured a cartoon character humping the floor with the caption ‘I’d hit it like this.’ Lauffer added the following text to the message: ‘You have just been phone fucked! P.S. you cannot fuck me back no matter how bad you may wanna.’ Other texts contained messages such as ‘I must licky you’ and ‘I am just a man. Never satisfied always wanting more.’ He also texted her a picture of the back side of a naked man and implied in another message that she was a ‘ho.’”
The APD also admits that Lauffer sent other text messages, which Byrd’s suit argues were racist: “Lauffer also sent text messages to Ms. Byrd derogative of the African American race and highly offensive to Ms. Byrd. For example, in November, 2008, he said that ‘the election is making me sick’ because he had the ‘Obama flu’ and that ‘due to recent events: grape soda, red kool-aid, fried chicken, malt liquor, menthol cigarettes and gold teeth will be tax exempt.’”
The APD and Lauffer’s defenses contend that the charges should be dismissed on a variety of grounds, alleging, in the APD’s case, that Byrd “did not suffer a ‘tangible employment action,’ the City and APD exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any alleged harassing conduct and the Plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities.”
While admitting the content of the text messages sent to Byrd, attorneys for the APD and Lauffer deny that he pervasively called her after hours, instead asserting that he called her, along with other members of the DSU, simply to gather socially.
The defenses admit that Lauffer’s supervisor, Lt. Chris Young, didn’t take action after Lauffer’s text messages were brought to his attention, but the defenses deny that Chief Bill Hogan, along with other city officials, failed to take action when Byrd brought her concerns forward to them, asserting instead that Byrd had originally requested that no action be taken. It asserts that the APD’s internal affairs wing did investigate the matter, “that some of the charges were sustained and some were not,” and that Byrd could not be told the full details of that investigation because it was a personnel matter.
The defenses also deny that the APD treated female officers differently, that the APD denied Byrd mental health care after she was fired upon in the line of duty, and that Byrd was kept under Lauffer’s supervision after her complaints came forward.
Byrd has sued for damages, asserting that working under Lauffer’s supervision made her job impossible and eventually led to an inability to continue employment with the APD and endangered her future career in law enforcement. The defenses call for all charges to be dismissed, and Byrd to pay all the court costs.
— David Forbes, senior reporter