YAKIMA, Wash. — A Yakima man whose 1996 rape conviction was overturned a decade later with the use of DNA testing is now suing the former lead detective on his case.
Attorneys for Ted Bradford, 40, accuse former detective and current Yakima Police Department Officer Joseph Scherschligt of depriving Bradford of his constitutional rights and withholding exculpatory evidence in the investigation of the case leading up to the June 1996 trial.
Bradford served more than nine years in prison for the convictions of first-degree rape and first-degree burglary stemming from an incident Sept. 29, 1995. In that incident the victim was tackled in her Barge Street home by an intruder who wore a stocking over his head. He allowed the 25-year-old woman to put her baby in a crib before placing a mask over her eyes and handcuffing her.
The convictions were officially thrown out in 2006 by the state Court of Appeals based upon new DNA evidence recovered from the mask found at the scene. In 2008, prosecutors filed aggravated burglary and aggravated rape charges against Bradford in relation to the incident from 1995, but he was acquitted of all charges in February 2010.
Bradford originally confessed to the crime in April 1996 after an hourslong interrogation and later recanted. According to his complaint filed Feb. 8 in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington, the confession was riddled with factual errors that Scherschligt was aware of, but he accepted the confession anyway.
Although the city of Yakima is not named in the complaint, assistant city attorney Helen Harvey said the city would represent Scherschligt if the case goes to court.
Harvey said the city would prepare a dissent once it has received a summons of complaint. She said the city would have no further comment.
The city received a separate complaint from Bradford filed in the city clerk’s office Feb. 11, alleging damages in the amount of $20 million. The complaint does not name Scherschligt, but the incident date is cited as April 1, 1996, the day Bradford was brought in for interrogation by Scherschligt and another officer.
The complaint in U.S. District Court calls for damages “in an amount to be proven at trial.” It cites Bradford’s experience in prison, public scorn he faced as a convicted rapist and the failure of his marriage, all as the result of his wrongful prosecution.
Bradford’s Seattle-based attorney Felix Gavi Luna did not return a call for comment.
Bradford has also been working with the University of Washington School of Law’s Innocence Project Northwest to promote legislation that would make it easier for the wrongfully convicted to recoup damages from the state for time spent incarcerated. House Bill 1341 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 12 but awaits action in the House Appropriations Committee, where it received a hearing Tuesday.