iTeam investigation referenced in federal rape case lawsuit

Attorney Ben Crump praised WHAS11 investigative series for uncovering discrepancies in the handling of the investigation. He said the revelations were part of the motivation for the lawsuit.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) A newly-filed federal lawsuit claims several current and former members of the Louisville Metro Police Department botched a 2008 rape investigation and intentionally misled the survivor about the testing of evidence in the case.

High profile attorney Ben Crump filed the lawsuit on behalf of Salisa Luster-Harrison Tuesday morning. He said the suit was filed, in part, as a result of a WHAS 11 News iTeam investigation which revealed discrepancies in the handling of evidence.

“There were internal memos telling subordinates to ‘cease and desist’,” Crump said, “Don’t do any more work in the rape of Salisa Luster, don’t give her any more information.”

Crump referenced the documents uncovered in the iTeam report, which included transcripts of communication between LMPD detectives and the Kentucky State Police crime lab.

“[A sergeant] called me back and said that he had received a “cease-and-desist” order from HQ, but that he would speak with his Lt. to give me a definite answer on whether to have the hairs tested or not,” a lab analyst wrote in an entry dated March 6, 2017.

“Lt. David Allen, the head of SVU, then called me back and let me know no further analysis would be pursued on the hairs, and that I could send the evidence back to the agency,” the lab analyst wrote.

However, a separate letter from Lt. Allen to Ellis told the family testing had been fully completed and because it produced no new leads, the investigation was being closed.

“Unfortunately,” the detective wrote, “that evidence testing has not provided us with any further information,” apparently suggesting the testing had already been done. “With that information, combined with the insufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution, we are closing this case again.”

Records show that testing actually needed written approval, but the iTeam found no records giving the authorization.

“I have rarely seen a more egregious example of police misconduct, investigatory malfeasance and just misrepresentations and lies,” attorney Mike Laux said at Tuesday’s news conference.

“At best, they misled her, at worse, they lied to her,” Crump added.

“We trusted them, we relied on them, we thought they were going to do what they were supposed to do and they did not,” Luster-Harrison said.

The WHAS 11 News iTeam investigation led to a review by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, who later created a cold-case unit for unsolved sexual assault investigations.

Her mother said over the last 10-plus years, she filed multiple open records requests and sent multiple emails and made multiple phone calls, but felt she was not getting the full truth about the investigation, where it stood and how it was handled.

“I have fought for the last 10 years to get justice for her and I will not stop and I want everybody in Louisville to know that,” Ellis said Tuesday morning.

Ironically, the news conference occurred directly across the street from LMPD headquarters.

“As you know, we do not comment on pending litigation,” an LMPD spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The mother-daughter-duo was not keeping silent, vowing to continue their fight in the hopes of inspiring other survivors and families too.

“Imagine if it was your sister, your daughter, your mother, anybody in your family that you are related to, how would you feel if the police did this to them?” Luster-Harrison asked rhetorically, “Don’t give up, do not give up, Yes they will tell you things that will have you feel defeated… but do not give up.”

iTeam Investigator Derrick Rose can be reached at (502) 582-7232 and Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.