Bullhead City Woman Claims Tribal Detective Sexually Assaulted Her During Work as Drug Informant
A Bullhead City woman who worked as an undercover informant claims in a federal lawsuit that she was sexually abused repeatedly by a Fort Mohave Tribal Police detective.
Erika Solem alleges in her 46-page federal complaint that after she was caught with 14 grams of crystal meth during a traffic stop in 2008, Detective Jeffrey Sohmer began using her to make undercover drug buys under the promise that she'd be allowed to plea to lesser charge.
After making a few buys in February 2009 with Sohmer and another detective, John Lavus, the two men began to make inappropriate, sexually charged comments. Sohmer once groped Solem's breasts as the behavior escalated, she claims. She states that she didn't report the abuse out of fear that the detectives would make her legal problems worse.
Then, in April of 2009, she went with Lavus and Sohmer to meet Michel McGill, a prosecutor with the Mohave County Attorney's office, where Solem was told she was being charged with crimes that would put her away for five to 15 years -- unless she agreed to do more work as an informant. At the advice of her attorney, she signed an agreement penned by McGill that bound her to do more work as an informant for the Mohave Area General Narcotics Enforcement Team in return for a sentence of probation. The agreement required her to be in contact with Sohmer at least three times a week.
That's when the abuse really took off, Solem claims. After a drive to the desert, Sohmer forced her to perform oral sex on him, but gave up after a few seconds when he saw she was in distress. On another occasion, Sohmer stripped off her clothes and raped her, she claims. Over the next several weeks, Sohmer continued badgering her sex, kissing her without her consent and once pulling her shirt off in front of Lavus.
Solem contacted a lawyer she knew, who then reported the abuse to McGill of the county attorney's office.
According to the lawsuit, McGill launched an internal investigation, during which Sohmer allegedly "admitted to his illegal conduct." Because of the abuse, the lawsuit states, McGill dropped all of the charges against Solem.
We left a message for McGill just before 5 p.m. this evening. A Fort Mohave police official says she'll pass along a message to Sohmer and Lavus.
Ryan Stevens, the Flagstaff attorney Solem hired for the federal case, tells us he can't say much about the case -- except that Solem's claims are credible.
Solem's seeking $75,000 in compensation, plus punitive damages. We'll update this one after hear back from the Mohave County Attorney's Office.
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