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Former Hyattsville Cop Sues City in Sexual Harassment Case

Lawsuit describes incidents of sexual assault, attempted rape.

A former Hyattsville police officer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging systemic sexual discrimination and sexual harassment within the city’s police department, including charges that she was sexually assaulted by a ranking officer while attending a Fraternal Order of Police conference in Louisville, KY.

The lawsuit was filed on June 28 by Marsha Lessard, a 2005 graduate of the Prince George's County Police Academy. 

Lessard was hired as a private in the Hyattsville police force within a week of graduation from the academy. She continued to work for the department until June of 2009 when she was fired, according to court documents.

Lessard is suing the city for sexual harassment, sexual discrimination and for retaliation against her when she complained to her supervisors about the situation.

"The Hyattsville Police Department has a dangerously chauvinistic culture that was rife with sexual bigotry," reads Lessard's complaint. "Male officers were allowed and encouraged to sexually harass female officers. The worst offenders acted with impunity and female officers that complained of the harassment were severely retaliated against and threatened."

Lessard's complaint lists at least 10 Hyattsville city police officers by name in describing a series of incidents that she alleges made the department a hostile work environment for women. 

Read the full complaint in the PDF attatched to the right of this article. WARNING: Graphic language.

Hyattsville Communications Director Abby Sandel said last night that the city would not comment on pending lawsuits. During the time period covered by the lawsuit, the police department was run by Chief Douglas Holland, a position he still holds.

UPDATE - 10:05 a.m. - Sandel issued a brief statement on behalf of the city of Hyattsville earlier this morning. It reads in full:

This matter is in federal litigation.  However, we believe strongly and without exception, that all City employees have the right to be treated equally and fairly.  As a matter of policy, the City has long forbidden discrimination in its workplaces in any form and will continue to do so.

The complaint goes into graphic detail, describing alleged incidents of sexual harassment committed by members of the Hyattsville Police Department. 

Perhaps the most shocking allegations stem from an August 2007 trip to the FOP conference in Louisville, KY, in which Lessard alleges that Cpl. Pat O'Hagan, who currently serves as the president of the Hyattsville FOP lodge, tried to rape her.

Lessard alleges that during the opening night of the conference, O'Hagan pulled her into a restaurant bathroom, groped her and forced her to touch his crotch. Lessard says in the complaint that she was able to break free when a man entered the bathroom suddenly and shouted, "What's going on?!"

According to Lessard's complaint, she told fellow police officers at the conference of the incident immediately, but no action was taken.

Later that night, Lessard alleges that O'Hagan entered her hotel room while she was sleeping, got on top of her and tried to rape her. A friend of Lessard, who was sharing a room with her, tackled O'Hagan and forced him off of Lessard and out of the room, her complaint states.

When she returned to Hyattsville, Lessard alleges that complaints filed with supervisors about O'Hagan's behavior were ignored. 

A phone call to O'Hagan was not returned Wednesday night.

Lessard’s complaint also singles out Sgt. Mark Roski, whom Lessard said perpetuated an atmosphere of sexual discrimination within the department by insisting that women tolerate sexual harassment. 

In March 2008, the complaint says Roski placed Lessard under O'Hagan's supervision during a round of restructuring, although Lessard vehemently objected.

Lessard’s complaint alleges that officers in the department routinely used sexist, homophobic and derogatory remarks to refer to coworkers and members of the public.

One section of her complaint alleges that city police officers would often use unmonitored radio channels to describe attractive women encountered while on patrol. 

Officers were alleged to have frequently bragged of their sexual exploits in graphic detail, and others were said to have abandoned their posts to engage in sexual activities before returning to work.

Lessard claims that she was forced to go weeks without a police radio and had trouble getting other officers to provide back-up for her while on patrol.

Lessard alleges that she was subject to a litany of other discriminatory workplace abuses by her colleagues and superiors over the next two years. She bounced between active duty and disability leave until May 2009, she said, when the city let her go, saying that she was unable to resume her normal job activities.

Lessard claims that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her workplace ordeals.

Lessard is seeking a jury trial to claim unspecified damages. Her suit also seeks to force the city to eliminate the discriminatory and harassing workplace practices alleged in her complaint. 

This is not the only legal trouble for the city's police department. At least three other cases filed in Maryland's U.S. District Court against the city of Hyattsville remain open.

Two of those involve allegations of excessive force by city police officers in separate incidents. A third lawsuit, filed by a former city police officer, alleges that the city police department perpetuated a racially discriminatory work environment and violated equal employment opportunity laws in its treatment of minority officers.

Jo Momma July 12, 2012 at 08:10 PM
The PDF file is still not working.
Michael Theis July 12, 2012 at 08:14 PM
The file is up and accessible. Make sure you have installed the latest version of Adobe Flash to use our PDF viewer. The PDF is located under the image accompanying this article.
dragonslayer July 13, 2012 at 12:17 AM
dragonslayer, actually we call them "the meet and beat squad".those 4 lawsuits r only the tip of the iceberg.how about the former officer who had 4 excessive complaints inside of nine months?? In not one of these cases was the officer suspened or terminated. what gives?? the supervisors were'nt looking out 4 the citzens of hyattsville when they allowed this officer to stay on patrol. they blame clearly rests on chief hollands shoulders.
J L July 13, 2012 at 03:00 AM
This is sad, but I believe it. It actually makes me happier that I am on the side of Hyattsville that has to refer to county when we need assistance. There are issues with people pretty much everywhere you are, but its really sad, and pathetic that THIS is what is supposed to be protecting us as civilians adn those who actually try to do their jobs get crapped on or treated horribly because they tried to do whats right. betcha that theyd all have thought differently about their actions had this woman, or any of the others pulled their guns on those bastards and shot them for their behavior. NO WHERE EVER IS IT OK TO FORCE YOURSELF ON ANY HUMAN BEING EVER!!!!!! That in itself is a major sign of weakness NOT power! GO LADIES! SUE the crap out of the officers and get the job done right!!!
Rise and Shine July 13, 2012 at 12:31 PM
If the officer did try to rape her and they were in Kentucky and she was fearful, why wouldn't she go to a police department in KY? If you are afraid of someone or something, it really doesn't matter whether you have a job or not when you get back, you just want to be safe. Seems strange that this happened in August 2007 and she didn't get an attorney until a year later. AND the documents state that another agency investigated this so there would be no "loyalty" amongst the officers. Why weren't criminal charges filed? Maybe because it didn't happen like she states. Sad that the officers can't comment on this because I'm sure the story is much different. I'm sure the news people won't post anything if the outcome is good because that's not a good story. Looks like she is just looking for the American payout. You know the new way to earn an income.
39thStreet July 13, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Wow. Seems like the defendant kept careful track of all of her "facts" for THREE years for a reason - prepping for a lawsuit maybe? If the accusations are true, who puts up with this type of abuse for three years? Is there documentation of her formal complaints, or were they not formal complaints? And who calls hotel security and not the COPS after a man breaks into one's hotel room (even though she gave a man she does not trust a key.....oops!) and attempts to rape her? I agree with Rise and Shine: no criminal case after an attempted rape? Sounds like she wants the American payout to me. There are SO many holes in this story. I smell a rat!
KarenJ July 13, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I for one can verify that this lawsuit is NOT being brought forward for financial gain. The Hyattsville Police Department is severely corrupt and to be honest the incidents listed by Mrs. Lessard are just a small amount of harassment that goes on in a daily bases towards female officers as well as the general public. Other than the rape, in which, the state police investigation found him guilty and recommended he be fired (but at the last minute the Chief offered him a deal which was a temporary demotion and alcohol classes), there are many, many sexual harassment actions which occur daily which would never be allowed in any other working environment. No woman should be subject to such behavior EVER..period! This treatment has got to stop and if it will not happen within the organization, then action has to be taken elsewhere. This was the only solution available to bring the situation into the public eye. Mrs. Lessard is a human being, she deserves justice for what has happened to her. And she is trying to protect future female officers so that they will not have to endure what she has..period! (CONTINUED)
KarenJ July 13, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Mrs. Lessard comes from a long line of public servants...it is in her blood. They are (both female and male) Firefighters, EMTs, Nurses, Police Officers, Secret Service Agents, Military Personnel and even a Mayor. Many of which have served in PG County! So not only is she trying to protect strangers from this type of harassment, she is trying to protect future generals of her family as well.
Michael Theis July 13, 2012 at 02:38 PM
That's awfully presumptive of you, Rise. I'll be following this case all the way through, thank you very much. Further, welcome to the site. I see that you and 39th Street just registered your account earlier today. You should know that it is against the site rules to use the message board to air out new information. If you have information you want me to look into, just send me an email in private. Otherwise, I'll be suspending your account and emailing you directly with some other questions.
KarenJ July 13, 2012 at 03:03 PM
*future generations not generals..LOL
Brittany M July 13, 2012 at 05:17 PM
For those of you questioning or attacking Mrs. lessard just know It is always easy for those who have never been through a situation to judge a person who has! It is hard enough for a person who is being abused by her spouse or has been raped by a stranger to come to terms with it and be able to tell what happen, but to add that the perpetrators are ranking officers, and you are told that if you complain or tell you will "pay" by other officers and not to mention these are people who when she is in a dangerous situation are called for backup! How could anyone come forward at that point in time! I'm very proud of her for bringing to light such a corrupt force! It is disgusting that people who are supposed to protect us are the ones causing the MOST harm at times! How could any of you want these officers protecting you or your children!? I think we need more officers like Mrs. Lessard! I truly feel sorry for the wives of these officers because if they are doing this publicly- harrassing, sexually assaulting, and engaging in sexual encounters while on duty I can not even imagine the abuse and harrassment some of you must experience in your own homes. It is just so sad that they destroyed her dream of being a police officer! No woman should ever be told she has to "play nice" especially in the place where she works!
LauraCuz July 13, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Rise and Shine, you say the following in your above comment, "If you are afraid of someone or something, it really doesn't matter whether you have a job or not when you get back, you just want to be safe. Seems strange that this happened in August 2007 and she didn't get an attorney until a year later." My response to you: How dare you question Lessard's actions in response to assault and attempted rape! How dare you dane to speak on behalf of rape victims and speculate how they should and should not react! The simple fact is you just don't know what OTHER people would do if in this situation. Obviously, we know how YOU would react. Psychologically speaking, everything that Lessard did in response to the circumstances is both valid and natural. If you were attacked at an FOP conference would your response really be to call in more police? Really? Did it ever occur to you that the victim here may have been in shock? Scared? Not sure who to turn to or who to trust? Let me ask you this, in the course of an emergency at a work function, do you call 9-1-1 or do you seek your chain of command? Even turning to the latest news with the Sandusky trials proves that you seek chain of command FIRST. You know what's interesting? You and 39th Street sound and awful lot like cops posting anonymous and coawrdly remarks even when you were told to make no comment. I wonder how your supervisors would feel about that? Oh, wait. They'd probably encourage it. Sue the crap out of them Lessard!
LauraCuz July 13, 2012 at 05:58 PM
39th Street: This is not the place to air your dirty laundry. You sound an awful lot like an angry, involved, cop who was told not to comment on the situation. Figures you would choose to do it in a cowardly, bullying, and anonymous way. While we all know that you have first amendment rights allowing you to speak your mind, do us a favor and stick to the reported facts in the article. Do some homework, too. Journaling and keeping documentation of offenses is one of the number one therapuetic techniques used with female victims of assualt, rape, and PTSD. So her "careful" documentation and "delayed" attempt to take action are not quite as poor judgement as you make them appear to be. They fall within the "normal" scope of action. And no criminal case for attempted rape? Yea, duh! O'Hagan was offered a deal to be demoted and take alcohol classes and was later re-promoted! Real punishment. His boss inappropriately took care of him at the last minute. Why am I not surprised?!
Keith Everhart July 13, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Funny how guilt or innocence is assumed in the public realm even before it reaches the court. What ever happened to patience, tolerance and forebearence???? The courts will decide ultimately so save the recriminations and accusations and insinuations. I know a few of the Hyattsville police officers and IMHO they are very professional and worthy of the public trust. And "IF" it is proven in the courts that so and so committed a crime and there are systemic problems with in sytem then it is my hope that justice will be served accordingly. To make a judgement without all of the knowable facts renders that judgement unworthy of consideration. Im just sayin......Keith
Brittany M July 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Keith you are a man therefore you would never experience descrimination from these listed officers.... furthermore I'm assuming you are not a police officer. I think Mrs. Lessard has been patient enough with the disgusting men who disgrace the badges they wear! it is completely unexceptable what they have done not only to her but to ALL of the females who join their force and not to mention the officers who are not caucasion and they are racist against! why dont you go do your homework instead of backing up your buddy's on the force, would you leave your daughters alone with these men, who are using YOUR money to have sex with young females ON DUTY instead of responding to your community emergency calls??? And you speak of tolerance?? I would hope NO ONE has tolerance for a man who has ALREADY ADMITTED to attempting to rape Mrs Lessard. again please read all documentation carefully and research the whole department before commenting on something you obviously are biased against! I'm just saying......
Brittany M July 13, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Rise and Shine-Just so that you are aware it is not and "IF THE OFFICER DID" if you actually read into the case the officer has already ADMITTED that he attempted to rape her! and he was ONLY demoted and then re-promoted. it is so easy for you to ask why she did or didn't do these things but then again why aren't you asking WHY HE ATTEMPTED TO RAPE HER, WHY HER ANOTHER OFFICER WHO IS FRIENDS WITH HIM PUNCHED MRS. LESSARD AND BROKE HER NOSE, WHY THIS FORCE HAS A HISTORY OF HARRASSMENT, RACISM AND ACCESSIVE FORCE DURING ARRESTS? (Just to list a few) you sound an aweful lot like the friend or maybe wife of one of these men. why not ask them why they hurt people when they are appointed and trusted by a whole community to HELP!?
Rise and Shine July 13, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Well said Keith!
LauraCuz July 13, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Keith, though you are correct in your statement that people should be innocent until proven guilty, what you should remember is that O'Hagan admitted to being guilty. There was no criminal case because of that. The rest of the officers involved in the harassment of Lessard and other female officers in the department DISGUST ME. You call abandoning your post for sexual encounters on duty, using other radio channels to talk about women in lude ways, and purposely not responding to back up these women professional conduct and we as the public should trust them?! Are you HIGH?! I get that you may know some of these men. I get that we shouldn't stereotype an entire department and I'm sure there are SOME cops there that do their job very well, but these guys epically fail. They deserve to be stripped of the badge, pensions, and any other privileges and wrought in Hell.
Michael Theis July 13, 2012 at 11:32 PM
As a point of fact, Lessard's lawyers assert in the complaint no evidence that O'Hagan admitted to any wrongdoing beyond "information and belief." It would be more accurate to say that Lessard's lawyers suspect that O'hagan admitted to wrongdoing.
John Mutchler July 14, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Mr Rise and Shine and D Paul either haven't read anything that has been published about this matter (including the complaint document) or they are just members of the perpetrating group trying to deflect everyone from the truth and circling the wagons to try and protect their partners in crime. Trying to paint Marsha as a gold digger looking for a pay day is just out right wrong… and again trying to deflect from the real truth. Marsha wanted nothing more than to follow in her dad’s footsteps in law enforcement. She wanted to do the job she was hired for to the best of her ability and eventually move up in whatever department she was working for. And the comments that were made to her about her wanting to work for the PG Police… those kinds of comments come from people who have no motivation or ambition to move up or just can’t cut it moving to a larger more progressive department. But putting up with what she had to put up with, with these Barney Fife cops is nothing less than despicable. One has apparently already pled guilty to some of the accusations and what did he get… demoted for a few months and then promoted! The Police Chief of the City of Hyattsville should be ashamed of himself. But those are the kind of things that happen in a good ol boy atmosphere.
John Mutchler July 14, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Continued… Unfortunately… when some of these people put that badge on it changes them. Their intentions and motivations were noble when they signed up… but the power that was bestowed upon them goes to their head and they want to show people the power that they possess… or think they possess. It puts them on a power trip that clouds their judgment and makes them feel that they can get away with… and do anything they want. And the worst thing about it is that it muddies the waters for the majority of police officers that still have the noble intentions they had when they started and do their job the way it is supposed to be done. I agree… let’s let it play out through the Justice system but I must say this… they should hope that I am not sitting on the jury.
Cousin-it July 14, 2012 at 08:23 AM
I agree John M as I know first hand, being from a law enforcement family that there is some officers that take the badge as a means to do what they want and not do what they are suppose to....when I think of the men and women that worked with my father closely together to do their jobs in the early 70s and 80s together as a team for the community and against crime then you have a group of people notice I did not say MEN committing more offences in the departmen
Cousin-it July 14, 2012 at 08:30 AM
More offences in the department then citzens on the street,now makes you wonder how many cases have been falsified and or prevoked,I also think and I said this before this dept. has had some questionable things going back to the 80s and who knows how far before that,and to the people who said why is it now just beibg filed because when you file a law suit against the city or state any city any state its a couple years process why who knows,
Cousin-it July 14, 2012 at 08:40 AM
But rest to sure JUSTICE WILL BE SERVED especially to dis honesty and corrupted areas of law enforcement it may take time but it will, then some of these people who put on the badge thinking it is something you get from toys r us and anyone can wear one,will wake up and know it is a Honor to wear that badge and remeber and honor the officers before you that took care of and protected the citizens before they had all this modern stuff and when they treated their partners with respect because they had to count on each other,key word respect
ganginblue July 14, 2012 at 09:21 AM
It's the police, the biggest gang of them all and we are in pg county after all . Police here to help you ? That's a new one to me and they wonder why my generation is so distrusting!
dragonslayer July 15, 2012 at 07:53 PM
dragonslayer pg24,sec112 states that chief holland offered o'hagan "a plea agreement" for admitting that what lessard complained about was true. why was'nt this reported to the states hooland has some explainingatty.??? attempted rape is a felony folks.why was this covered up and kept "in house"?? holland has some explaining to do..
John Mutchler July 15, 2012 at 11:23 PM
"O'Hagan was scheduled to appear before the Hyattsville Employee Administrative Trial Board on or around July 23, 2009. Prior to the hearing, the Chief of Police Douglas Holland offered O'Hagan a plea agreement. Upon information and belief, O'Hagan admitted to the incidents occuring in Kentucky of which Lesard complained." OK... if he admitted to attempted rape... how can he still be a police officer? How can he ever make another arrest? Wouldn't that information taint his credibility at any court appearance he makes? And I do believe you are correct... Holland has some explaining to do it this is true.
Jon Doe July 17, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Plea agreement to what ? Administrative charges do not include Attempted Rape, it would be more likely to be "conduct unbecoming an officer", or something of that nature. According to what we have read, this was a department administrative issue, not a criminal matter as it may have been in Kentucky. That brings us to another pint, where were the Kentucky Authorities, were they notified ? If not, why ? Why drag this all the way back to Maryland if in fact a crime was committed in Kentucky ? Why bring it back to the department only for administrative sanctions. Beyond that, even if a crime was committed in another state, what authority did anyone in Maryland have over the case ? This was not a case in which Federal Jurisdiction could apply. So, With the exception of this officers department, there was nobody with jurisdiction that we have been told of. Beyond that, we can not apply our states standard to Kentucky law without being educated in Kentucky law. Stating it is a felony without knowing the elements of the crime as it applies to Kentucky law is misleading. If you are familiar with the law, you should know that most states have a complicated matrix of laws concerning sexual deviance. If it had been reported in Kentucky, that states authorities should have applied the states matrix and dealt with the case accordingly. Since there is no mention of this, I doubt that it was reported in Kentucky.
Jon Doe July 17, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Why ?? Let's keep in mind, the police department did according, to all things shown to us, use the Maryland State Police to investigate this. They probably could have done it themselves without involving an impartial agency but they did not. Without knowing the exact finding of the State Police, we do not know what this officer was charged with administratively, or what he pled to. Therefore, we can not assume that the agency did anything out of the ordinary. Another point is that with the State Police involved and the standards set fourth by COMAR and the Maryland Police and Corrections Training Commission, do you really think the agency could have gone around state standards to discipline this officer? This is unlikely, standards must be applied, and checks and balances were in place being overseen by State Statute and other agencies. This is a very sensitive emotional issue, but, we need to deal with facts. I feel bad for all the people in this unfortunate set of events. I think we should stop this trial by public opinion and let the courts system sort it out.
Katrina September 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
I can believe it, Hyattsville City police are crooks and think they can get away with anything!! learned from a personal experience with them.

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