Former U cop found liable for sex abuse

Kamariea Forcier

A jury in Hennepin County decided Tuesday that a former University Police officer was liable for sexual abuse, but said the University was not responsible for his conduct.
David G. Wiser brought charges against Officer Gary V. Downing in 1992 for sexual abuse that happened in 1978 while Wiser played for the Minnesota Little Gophers baseball team. Downing was coach of the Little League team for more than 20 years.
The jury awarded Wiser more than $2.5 million in damages.
Wiser was 13 years old when the abuse occurred. The jury found that Downing had sexually abused Wiser by sharing a hotel room and bed with the boy during team trips, having Wiser sleep naked with him and asking for massages from the youth.
Wiser delayed bringing charges against Downing because he had repressed memories of the abuse, according to court documents.
Wiser also brought negligence charges against the University because it allowed Downing to use its practice fields, buildings, logo and mascot name.
But Patrick Sauter, an attorney for the University, said the school was unaware of Downing’s use of University facilities.
“The University did nothing improper,” Sauter said. “The jury just confirmed that.”
The University found out about Downing’s use of fields and logos after a group of parents complained that Downing was verbally abusive to players and threatening to parents. Parents also complained that the team’s nickname and uniforms implied a connection to the University.
Downing, who worked for the University from 1966 until his retirement in 1993 after the suit was filed, has told news media that he is not guilty of the charges. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Craig Cascarano, Downing’s attorney, said his client is “glad it’s over.”
Cascarano said of repressed memory cases, “There are certain circumstances where it’s valid and certain circumstances where it’s not,” adding that they “should be looked at with a suspect eye.”
Head University attorney Mark Rotenberg said Sauter did a great job on the case, adding, “We are very pleased with the jury verdict.”
“We believe justice was done,” he said.