ELLSWORTH — Attorneys for an intellectually disabled Stonington woman who was raped by her bus driver have brought a civil action against those they say were responsible for the woman’s care while she was being transported.
The complaint names Down East Community Partners Inc., Logisticare Solutions, LLC, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and former bus driver Van Stevens as defendants in claims of assault and battery and negligence.
Stonington attorney John Z. Steed and co-counsel, Patrick Noaker of Noaker Law Firm in Minneapolis, are seeking a jury trial and an award “in excess of $50,000.”
Stevens, an Orland resident, was sentenced last March to five years in prison with all but one year suspended, for the crimes against the woman. Stevens had pleaded guilty to one count of gross sexual assault and one count of aggravated assault, according to District Attorney Matt Foster.
In the civil filing, the plaintiff is referred to as Jane Doe 125.
The pseudonym is being used because the woman is a “vulnerable adult,” according to the complaint filed in Hancock County Superior Court in Ellsworth by Steed.
The rape occurred when the victim was getting a ride on a bus operated by Downeast Community Partners. The woman regularly got rides from the social service agency.
“Stevens waited until the woman was the only person remaining on the bus and pulled into an isolated parking area and then sexually assaulted the woman,” Steed stated.
The attorney stated that because of the defendants’ breach of duty, “Jane Doe 125 has suffered and will continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, severe and permanent emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation and psychological injuries, was prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing her normal daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life…”
Stevens had been working as a bus driver for Downeast Community Partners at the time of the assault. Downeast Community Partners has contracts with Logisticare Solutions and Maine DHHS.
Logisticare Solutions has contracts with Maine DHHS as well as Downeast Community Partners to provide transportation for people with disabilities.
A spokesman for Logisticare said the company has no comment at this time.
Jackie Farwell, spokeswoman for Maine DHHS, said the department is unable to comment on pending litigation.
Ellsworth attorney William Ashe represented Stevens in the criminal case. The American was unable to reach Ashe for comment about the civil matter before press time.
Mark Green is executive director of Downeast Community Partners.
“We regret the fact that this incident occurred,” Green said. “Obviously, the person impacted most was the young woman who was assaulted by Van Stevens and my heart goes out to her. We were pleased to see that Van was convicted of the crime and hope that some of the information we provided to law enforcement was helpful.”
“Van passed the criminal and driving background checks required of all our drivers; nothing showed up that disqualified him from being a driver,” Green said. “With the exception of Van, our drivers are people who truly care about the people they transport.
“In more than 40 years of providing this service, Downeast Community Partners and its predecessor WHCA have not had a similar incident,” Green said. “It has been comforting to us that within a few days of the complaint the young woman who was assaulted was riding with us again and is riding regularly now. This is a testament not only to her courage but also to the good people who serve as DCP drivers.”
Green said his agency did institute additional training “to help our drivers better understand the needs and challenges of the people we transport.”
“Previously most training had focused on driver safety,” Green said.
In a press release, Noaker said of Stevens “This predator isolated and manipulated the innocence of this vulnerable woman in order to sexually assault her.”
“Unfortunately, intellectually disabled adults are sexual assaulted at a rate seven times higher than the general population,” Noaker stated. “These most vulnerable and important members of our communities need and deserve the highest protection from sexual predators.
“In this case, the people responsible for protecting this woman failed her and a sexual predator was able to sexually assault an innocent victim. She deserved better than this. We can do better than this.”