Friday, April 20, 2012

Former Officer Sonya Worthington Charged with Assault Files Lawsuit

A former Bartlesville officer charged with assault and battery stemming from an incident at a hospital in September has filed a lawsuit against the City of Bartlesville.

This suit, filed in United States District Court on Tuesday, is the fifth lawsuit filed against the city by police officers in the space of a year.

In the lawsuit, Sonya Jean Worthington, 44, alleges that the city, through its police chief and her supervisors, ignored its own policies and procedures "particularly to the detriment of the plaintiff and to the benefit of white male officers" to create a hostile work environment."

Among other claims set forth in the document, Worthington spoke of discrimination, saying she was required to take a qualifying test allowing her to become an officer multiple times over as the results were "lost."

Additionally, she claimed the police chief once in the squad room pointed out a newly hired female officer and said "'this one is a sharp one' implying that other female officers currently working at the Bartlesville Police Department, including the plaintiff, were not intelligent."

She also said she was the first to be terminated by the police chief for disagreement with department policies and was immediately reinstated when she brought up that male officers written up for similar action received little to no punishment.

Worthington alleged further discrimination concerning her termination, saying that where she had been promoted and then — following the September incident and a probe by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation — fired, a male officer who on a prior occasion had reportedly choked a 12-year-old was punished internally and not fired.

She stated in the suit she has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and has since received a right to sue letter.

Worthington seeks more than $75,000 in actual damages and $75,000 in punitive damages from the city.

She is one of two officers placed on leave in September due to allegations of official misconduct.

She and Stacey Neafus were charged following the conclusion of an investigation by the OSBI of an incident alleged to have occurred on Sept. 18 at Jane Phillips Medical Center.

According to court documents, Neafus and Worthington that day "willfully and unlawfully committed assault and battery" on the alleged victim, a mental patient at the hospital.

Neafus reportedly pushed the alleged victim's upper torso over a metal chair arm with "with the weight of the defendant pressing" the man "who was handcuffed behind his back at the time of the defendant's actions, with force and violence.

Worthington allegedly struck the same alleged victim and placed him in a headlock, pulled and twisted his head while he was handcuffed, "with force and violence," said the information sheet.

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