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Rape Allegation Dismissed in LaDucer Harassment Suit


SANTA ANA — In a sexual-harassment suit against former Assistant Sheriff Dennis LaDucer, a judge dismissed a separate allegation that LaDucer raped a department clerk, but the accusation remains part of her pending civil suit.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Randell L. Wilkinson ruled that the one-year statute of limitations had expired by the time the alleged June 1995 rape was revealed in a lawsuit last month.

"Obviously, we're very pleased," said LaDucer's attorney, Bruce D. Praet. LaDucer has denied any wrongdoing.

The unnamed clerk is one of four women suing the 31-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, who was fired last month following an internal investigation into the women's allegations.

Lt. Wendy Costello, office employee Mary Ann Hoyt and Sheriff's Deputy Florence J. Henson filed suit this summer saying LaDucer, 52, groped, propositioned and threatened the careers of female employees.

Praet said the dismissal of the individual rape charge in the clerk's suit "takes away a serious portion of her complaint and puts her back in the same boat with the other women."

But Pat Thistle, the attorney representing the four women, said the clerk's rape allegation will still be brought up in the part of her suit accusing LaDucer of sexual harassment.

"In terms of the outcome of the case, it's going to be a big zero," Thistle said of the judge's ruling. "It's not like I can't bring the facts out at trial."

LaDucer has filed a countersuit against Costello, Hoyt and Henson, saying they lied to sheriff's investigators. He also sued Sheriff Brad Gates, claiming his civil rights were violated when Gates fired him in August amid the allegations of sexual misconduct.

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