A Domestic Violence Victim, Allegedly Raped by Her Detective: Woman Files Suit Against MCSO

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone at the March 10 press conference.
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone at the March 10 press conference. Josh Kelety

A woman whose accusations of sexual assault prompted the arrest of a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detective in October has filed a lawsuit, alleging the agency knew he'd committed similar crimes.

Marnie Bryan filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court on July 20, naming Detective Gary Kaplan and Sheriff Paul Penzone as defendants. She accuses Kaplan of "raping" her and claims that Penzone failed to supervise its staff or hold employees like Kaplan accountable. Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) officials had known about Kaplan's "proclivity to befriend and sexually assault victims of crimes," the lawsuit states.

"He shouldn't have done that," Bryan, who is 51 years old, told Phoenix New Times during an interview in May. "I was a victim, I was vulnerable. I was going to them for help and I was scared."

The lawsuit is the latest development in the fallout from Kaplan's alleged misconduct. He was arrested and booked into jail last October on two counts of unlawful sexual conduct, and reportedly was placed on administrative leave while MCSO conducted an internal investigation. In a statement issued at the time, Sheriff Penzone proclaimed that he would be "intolerant of violations of public trust" and that MCSO will "hold our employees accountable for behaviors that are in conflict with our values."

Kaplan admitted during questioning following his arrest that he engaged in sexual activity with Bryan, according to the Arizona Republic.

click to enlarge Marnie Bryan - PHOTO COURTESY SCOTT GRIFFITHS
Marnie Bryan
Photo courtesy Scott Griffiths
However, the county attorney's office declined to prosecute Kaplan, arguing that Bryan was neither the subject of an investigation nor someone in police custody, and therefore Kaplan's actions didn't violate state law.

The lawsuit claims that Kaplan "remains employed by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office as a detective."

Norma Gutierrez-Deorta, an MCSO spokesperson, declined to comment on the lawsuit. She also declined to comment on the status of Kaplan's employment at MCSO or the agency's investigation into his conduct.

Attempts to reach Kaplan were unsuccessful.

Bryan was featured in a Pinal Central story published last January regarding her stint fighting wildfires in Arizona as a prison inmate while serving a sentence for a 2014 DUI conviction. She now works as a hairdresser.

The alleged sexual assault stemmed from a domestic violence incident involving Bryan's ex-boyfriend, "William." According to Bryan and the court filing:

On the night of July 17, 2020, Bryan went to William's house in Chandler. William had been abusive toward Bryan in the past, and he soon became argumentative and physically violent. He took her phone, choked her, and put a pistol to her head. Eventually, after Bryan managed to get her phone back, she called a Lyft home at around 2 a.m. and went to her 30-year-old son's house in Mesa, who she was living with at the time.

Bryan called the police the next morning and was referred to MCSO (William's home is technically in unincorporated Maricopa County). A deputy took an initial report from her and she was instructed to go meet with a detective several days later at MCSO's Mesa facility. There, she met with Detective Kaplan, who was working her case.

Kaplan told her that there would "probably be a prosecution" because of the amount of evidence against William, according to Bryan. After the interview was over and Bryan left the building, Kaplan immediately started texting her and told her to get a restraining order against William. He offered to pick her up and take her to the court, which Bryan thought at the time was just him being "overly friendly."

The next day, Bryan took a Lyft to the court herself and filed the protection order. While she was there, Kaplan said in a text message that he would give her a ride home; Bryan agreed. He picked Bryan up in his black, unmarked MCSO vehicle while wearing his uniform, and drove her to her son's house. After he dropped her off, he initiated another text message conversation. Kaplan wrote in one message, "word of advice... don't date crazy men," and urged her to get a dog. Bryan responded that she had a German Shepherd and Kaplan wrote back, “I wld have love to have met him.” He later added, “I’m still only 2 miles away. Shod I turn around and say hi.”

Bryan agreed and Kaplan returned to her home. Inside the house, he initially played with the dog for a few minutes before sitting on the same couch as Bryan. He moved closer to her and began "rubbing" her leg and back before trying to kiss her. Bryan said she was uncomfortable and walked to the bathroom. Kaplan followed her and walked into her bedroom. He told her to sit on the bed and took off his gun belt and clothes.

Then, according to Bryan, he raped her without wearing a condom. She said that while she didn't resist Kaplan's advance or explicitly tell him to stop, she never consented to the intercourse. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, physical resistance by the victim of rape is "not required" to "demonstrate lack of consent."

"I was just shocked by it all," Bryan said. "I didn't know what else to do. I thought I had to. I was scared. I went along with it."

Kaplan finished after a few minutes. While he was getting ready to leave, according to Bryan, he said "You can take this off of your bucket list." When Bryan asked him what he meant, he said something along the lines of, "all women want to sleep with a cop."

Bryan said that she felt "violated" after the incident. Even more disturbing was the fact that he was an MCSO detective who was, at the time, investigating a domestic violence case in which she was a victim.

click to enlarge Gary Kaplan - PHOTO VIA MCSO
Gary Kaplan
Photo via MCSO
"What just happened?" she said, referring to her emotional state after Kaplan left. "I had sex with somebody that I didn't want to have sex with ... I didn't think that would ever happen."

"I thought maybe this is what I had to do to get William charged," Bryan added.

Kaplan kept texting her and asked "personal things like what she was wearing, if he could come back to her house, if she had a good time with him, if her 'dog' needed another visit," the complaint states. Bryan didn't want to disrupt the investigation into William, so she politely rebuffed his attempts to see her again.

In early August 2020, William entered Bryan's son's home and stole her purse, which had her phone in it. He found messages between Kaplan and Bryan and demanded that she stop pursuing charges against him or he would report Kaplan to MCSO.

Bryan called Kaplan to tell him about the threat, prompting Kaplan to meet her at the house. He looked at her phone and William's messages and "appeared to type a message and delete" other messages. He didn't appear concerned about his threat. Then, according to Bryan, he took her to her bedroom and raped her again. Bryan asked about the case and Kaplan said that he would "look into it."

But Kaplan soon told her that the sheriff's office wouldn't be pursuing charges against William, Bryan said. She also allegedly got a letter from the county attorney's office informing her that charges wouldn't be filed against William. Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the county attorney's office, did not respond to New Times' questions about the case.

In mid-September, William allegedly contacted the sheriff's office and disclosed Kaplan's relationship with Bryan, per the complaint. The following month, investigators with MCSO's Professional Standards Bureau (PSB) met with Bryan. They allegedly disclosed that Kaplan had "sexually assaulted victims of other violent crimes" and "assured" Bryan that she was "not alone."

"Maricopa County knew about Detective Kaplan’s proclivity to befriend and sexually assault victims of crimes, including violent crimes," the complaint states. "Despite this knowledge, Maricopa County permitted Detective Kaplan to continue to work for MCSO, investigate violent crimes, and put victims like [Bryan] in harm’s way."

The PSB investigators eventually worked with Bryan to record a phone call between her and Kaplan. She was coached to tell him that he got her pregnant and that she needed an abortion. During the call, which investigators were listening in on, Kaplan allegedly admitted to having sex with her and offered to pay for an abortion. He was soon arrested and charged. But the county attorney's office would end up declining to prosecute him.

Bryan's lawsuit accuses Kaplan of violating her Fourteenth Amendment constitutional rights, battery, and inflicting emotional distress. The complaint alleges that Sheriff Penzone and Maricopa County engage in "unconstitutional practices" that "ignore instances" where its employees "take advantage of their position of power" to harass and sexually assault victims of crimes. She's seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

"Nothing came out of it other than him being a predator, taking advantage of me," Bryan said.
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety