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Former jailer brings new allegation, details rape in amended complaint against Baxter County, Sheriff and Sergeant

A new allegation has been levied against Baxter County and former Sergeant Steven Goode after former Baxter County jailer Tabitha L. King filed an amended complaint in federal court last Thursday.

The amended complaint, filed in response to Baxter County, Sheriff John Montgomery and Goode’s request for a dismissal, provides more details of King’s time with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to those new details, King now alleges that Goode denied her request to go to a hospital while experiencing a miscarriage in 2020.

King was arrested and booked by the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office at the beginning of April after a domestic dispute. All charges against King were dropped after she attended her court hearing.

Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery stands at the podium during a Quorum Court session addressing employee benefits. Montgomery argued in favor of amending his department’s personnel policy so that all county employees can receive additional benefits. Photo by Chris Fulton/MHO.

Motions to Dismiss

During the lead-up to the amended complaint, the defendants argued that they were not King’s direct employers and could not grant her relief. Goode argued that King had failed to show he had intended to cause emotional distress to King. Both defendants argued that King had failed to provide enough evidence of her claims.

“There are no factual allegations in the Complaint that Goode, individually, ‘intended to inflict emotional distress’ or that he ‘willfully and wantonly knew or should have known that emotional distress was the likely result of his conduct,’ which is a required element of the claim. In fact, the entire complaint is void of any allegations that Goode intended to cause harm. As such, Plaintiff has failed to plead facts to support the first element of the intentional tort of outrage and the claim must be dismissed against Goode,” Goode’s motion of dismissal read.

King’s response to Goode’s dismissal read, “the Defendants point to the allegation that King was sexually assaulted by Goode and then subjected to unwanted advances and illicit photographs by him as not being factually sufficient to warrant outrage. Must the Plaintiff describe in graphic detail the sexual assault she suffered to meet the Twombly standard? Really? The Amended Complaint will do that, describe the County and Sherriff’s knowledge of Goode’s behavior, the failure to take any action to remediate that behavior. The Defendants may regret what is pled.”

In King’s response to the defendant’s request for dismissal, King’s lawyers argued that “it is notable that neither motion seeks dismissal of King’s discrimination claims against Baxter County, Arkansas, but only against Goode and the Sheriff in each’s individual capacities. The Plaintiff agrees: sort of.”

King argues that while Goode was not her employer, he was her direct supervisor, and “the County would be vicariously liable for his unlawful harassment of which it was aware and which it failed to remediate.”

The waters become murkier with Sheriff Montgomery. In his response to King, Montgomery argued that while he was Sheriff of Baxter County, her direct employer was the county itself. King’s lawyers argue that Montgomery does, in fact, meet the standards for an employer, stating, “Title VII defines employer as ‘a person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person.’ 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(b).’ Sheriff Montgomery meets that definition.”

United States District Judge Timothy L. Brooks rendered moot all motions for dismissal after King filed her amended complaint on Thursday.

Rape and miscarriage

While King’s initial allegation of sexual assault by Goode was somewhat vague, her newly amended complaint provides more details on what allegedly happened that day while also redefining the assault as rape.

King’s complaint now alleges that in the Spring of 2019, while working with then Corporal Goode to move mattresses into a storage unit, Goode “pushed Ms. King to the ground onto her knees and forced his penis into her mouth. King pushed Goode off, and Goode told her she had better keep her mouth shut or he would find a way to have her fired. As she fled, he exclaimed that no one would believe her.”

In her filing, King states that while she cannot remember the exact date, she does remember that it was during the spring because “certain flowers were blooming and Goode was wearing his weekend uniform.”

King states that she did not file a claim of sexual assault out of fear of what had happened and because she felt like no one would believe her.

Rape is defined as a Class Y felony under Arkansas Code Annotated 5-14-103.

In her response to Montgomery and Goode’s motions to dismiss, King stated, “Plain and simple, sexual assault is criminal. See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-14-125(a)(1). It is so severe that no person should expect to endure it. It is intentional. It cannot be tolerated, let alone swept under the rug as happened here. The Complaint has given the Defendants the notice required by Twombly (and then-some). Plainly stated, Goode is liable for his actions, the Sheriff is liable for not addressing the behavior, and the County is vicariously liable for the intentional tortious actions of its employees.”

After the alleged rape incident in 2019, King says that Goode continued to harass her, often sending her pictures of his penis. As previously reported, Goode is alleged to have the nickname of “Corporal Dick Pic” within the Sheriff’s Office.

King states that she reported the photos to Dawn Dunford, head dispatcher. Dunford is alleged to have stated that she would bring the photos to Lieutenant Brad Lewis. King said she then tried to switch shifts to get away from Goode but was denied because “she did not formally request the change through the proper channels of command.”

King then addresses a new allegation.

“In 2020, King requested leave to go to the emergency room due to an urgent issue with a pending pregnancy. She was told by her supervisor, once again, Sergeant Goode, that if she were to leave, that she would be fired; that she would not have a job when she returned from the hospital. After clocking out that day, still in uniform, King went to the hospital and finished suffering a miscarriage of her daughter.”

She then goes on to allege that she was fired eight days after she reported to Captain Lewis that Sgt. Goode had sexually assaulted and sexually harassed her, and that he retaliated against her through negative evaluations in March on April 15, 2021. King left the Sheriff’s Office on April 23, 2021.

Before her departure, she had received a negative evaluation from Goode, who was still her supervisor. She also had her badge and gun taken away because she was on anxiety medication.

Following her termination, King filed an EEOC complaint. An investigator with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated King’s termination and, in a letter to King, wrote, “Investigation revealed your evaluation was not remarkably unfavorable, and while you had opportunity to rebut the evaluation under Respondent policy, you did not. You were not suspended, but rather your access to weapons was temporarily removed due to safety concerns by the employer. You were discharged following an altercation with a co-worker in which your official statement was inconsistent with the evidence. There is insufficient evidence establishing a causal nexus between your sex, disability, your alleged 2019 complaints, and any adverse employment action. Based upon the evidence available, EEOC is unable to conclude that there was a violation under the laws enforced by EEOC.”

The EEOC issued the following determination: “The EEOC will not proceed further with its investigation and makes no determination about whether further investigation would establish violations of the statute. This does not mean the claims have no merit. This determination does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statutes. The EEOC makes no finding as to the merits of any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge.”

What’s next?

The federal lawsuit against Baxter County, Montgomery, and Goode still has a ways to go, as the defendants will have to refile a response to King’s reworked complaint. The case’s first court session, which is slated for May 24, will be a court management hearing, in which all sides hash out how the case will unfold.

The Mountain Home Observer will continue to monitor and report on this case as it works through the justice system.

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