Phillipsburg police Chief Mark Wysong knew about Justin Sanderson’s alleged checkered and sexually-charged work history when he hired Sanderson as a police officer, according to federal lawsuits brought by two of Sanderson’s alleged sexual assault victims.
The lawsuits filed this month in Dayton’s U.S. District Court name Sanderson, Wysong and the village of Phillipsburg as defendants a year after the ex-officer allegedly committed sex crimes against at least three women — two in a hotel and one in a village building — while in uniform and on duty.
Sanderson, 33, is scheduled for an August bench trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court on 21 counts including three for rape, seven for sexual battery, two for gross sexual imposition, two for kidnapping and four for civil rights violations.
Attorney Anthony VanNoy is representing Sanderson in the criminal case and “right now” in the civil cases.
“We’ll be filing answers to those complaints and obviously entering denials as to the allegations of any criminality in the context of sexual assault and so forth or abuse of his power as an officer,” VanNoy said. “We’ll defend those cases vigorously as well. It’s interesting that the complaints have been filed seeking money damages at this stage.”
Answers from the Phillipsburg defendants have not yet been filed, according to the court dockets.
Reached Friday, Wysong declined comment when asked about the lawsuits.
Wysong did indicate that the same attorney was representing himself and the village, but he couldn’t provide the lawyer’s name.
Efforts to reach Phillipsburg Mayor Cheryl Crabtree and law director Jason Treherne to get the attorney’s name were unsuccessful. Neither immediately returned phone messages seeking comment.
Among the allegations in the lawsuit:
• Wysong worked with Sanderson at both the Grandview Medical Center Police Department and G4S Secure Solutions USA before Sanderson was hired by Phillipsburg.
• As a control room operator at the Montgomery County Juvenile Detention Center from 2008 to 2013, Sanderson was disciplined, suspended and given poor performance reviews for accessing pornographic websites, allowing a male to enter the female housing unit and leaving his post.
• Sanderson was in the Dayton Police Academy but was fired for misconduct that included asking a female recruit and a male recruit if they were “making love” during a training exercise. Sanderson completed his peace officer training program on Sept. 3, 2014.
• About two months into his job at Grandview, Sanderson was suspended for violating a sexual harassment policy by showing a picture of his genitals to female nurses.
• Sanderson told Grandview supervisors he hung out with prostitutes and near drug houses even though the hospital didn’t take part in any undercover drug or prostitution operations. Sanderson resigned Dec. 24, 2014, while under investigation.
• Sanderson was hired by Wysong in June 2015 at G4S, where Wysong is a senior area supervisor, despite a background check that revealed Sanderson’s prior misconduct at Grandview and the juvenile detention center.
• Sanderson was hired as a police officer in June 2016 by Wysong, the village’s only full-time peace officer and who knew of Sanderson’s record.
• Wysong knew Sanderson would largely be unsupervised and working when village offices were empty and locked and that the cruisers and buildings had no surveillance cameras.
• Sanderson lacked the knowledge, experience and judgment to perform the duties of a peace officer, especially without direct supervision.
One lawsuit alleges, “The actions of Chief Wysong and the police officers of the Village of Phillipsburg, by engaging in the above-referenced code of silence, proximately caused the misconduct, as alleged above, by Officer Sanderson.”
The lawsuits allege excessive force, deprivation of due process, unreasonable search and seizure, lack of equal protection, inadequate screening, failure to supervise, equal protection violations, civil assault, civil battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination, loss of consortium and assault.
The civil actions seek punitive, compensatory and statutory damages along with attorney fees.
VanNoy said a win in front of Judge Steven Dankof in the criminal case would help defend the civil cases:
“If we don’t, I think (the village is) going to distance themselves from us, I suspect, and try to say that he was a lone wolf and they had no knowledge and so forth,” he said.