Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
A nuclear weapons expert who worked on Kirtland Air Force Base when he was arrested last year on suspicion of sexually assaulting his child has filed a lawsuit against the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and the state’s child welfare agency, claiming the false accusations have ruined his career and traumatized his children.
The lawsuit brought by Adam Lowther, who at the time of his arrest was the director of the Air Force’s School for Advanced Nuclear Deterrence Studies, and his wife, Jessica Lowther, says that their constitutional rights were violated multiple times throughout the investigation and their children were harmed when they were temporarily placed in foster care.
Lowther, who at one point was one of the country’s leading experts on nuclear policy, was fired after his arrest and remains unemployed. The 53-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and argues that sheriff’s deputies and Children, Youth and Families Department investigators omitted and misrepresented numerous facts in the case in their official reports.
The Lowthers have since been reunited and now live in Katy, Texas.
The lawsuit names the BCSO, CYFD, CYFD investigator Maria Morales and deputies Jacob Wootton, Catherine Smalls, Brian Thornton and Martin Lozano as defendants.
Officials from the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and CYFD declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing the pending litigation.
Lowther was arrested in August 2017 and charged with criminal sexual penetration of a minor and criminal sexual contact of a minor against his 4-year-old daughter.
Michael Patrick, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said that the case against Lowther has been reassigned to a different prosecutor and that the office plans to try to present the case to a grand jury.
“We would hope and expect that because of the dearth of evidence it would cease any effort” to indict Lowther, said Rachel Higgins, attorney for one of the Lowthers.
The case against Lowther was launched after a teacher at his daughter’s private school, which has preschool through high school students, reported to CYFD that the girl told the teacher she had been assaulted by her 7-year-old brother and father. The lawsuit says that the teacher was upset at the time with how the Lowthers responded to the teacher’s concerns that their little girl had put her hand down her pants at school.
Less than two hours after the alleged abuse was reported to CYFD, deputies arrived at the Lowther house and threatened Jessica Lowther with arrest and took custody of their two children for two days, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit accuses deputies of failing to vet the teacher – who had known the child for only eight days – and improperly enforcing laws concerning child welfare checks and 48-hour holds on children suspected of being abused.
Deputy Felicia Maggard, a spokeswoman for the BCSO, said deputies have the authority to charge anyone who interferes with a welfare check on a child and she provided the Journal with the state statute prohibiting anyone from knowingly obstructing, delaying, interfering with or denying access to a law enforcement officer or child protective services social worker in the investigation of a report of child abuse or sexual abuse.
After Adam Lowther’s arrest, the lawsuit accuses the BCSO of misrepresenting the facts of the case in a news release that was used as a resource in multiple stories. The release said that a forensic interview with the 4-year-old and a physical examination showed signs of abuse. But the lawsuit said that during the interview the child said her father touched her after she used the restroom and that the physical examination found no signs of assault.
“The allegation is not only sick and disgusting, it is absurd,” the lawsuit says. “Dr. Lowther has done everything in his power to prove his innocence, including taking and passing a polygraph that was validated by the district attorney’s own polygraph expert.”
After Adam Lowther’s arrest, the children were temporarily placed in foster care until parental rights were returned to Jessica Lowther in November.
The day her parental rights were restored, deputy Wootten arrested Jessica Lowther for alleged witness tampering. The case against Jessica Lowther wasn’t prosecuted.
The lawsuit said that throughout the criminal cases, Wootten and Morales made misstatements and omitted things in reports or affidavits that misled judges.
“Defendant Morales and Wootton are either unencumbered by the truth or recklessly incompetent,” the lawsuit states. “Either way, their mishandling of the case is inexcusable.”
Court records don’t list an attorney for any of the defendants. The Journal reached out to the CYFD and the sheriff’s office late Wednesday seeking comments from the defendants. It had not received a response by deadline.
The lawsuit said Lowther was notified five times, the most recent being in March, that he was a target of a grand jury investigation. He was never indicted. His parental rights were restored in May of this year.
The suit says the Lowther children continue to struggle as a result of their time in foster care. During that time the brother, upset with the family’s separation, physically attacked the younger sister, threatened suicide and had to see a school counselor 55 times.
“The emotional trauma has persisted since the children were returned to the Lowthers as they are fearful of being taken again,” the lawsuit states.