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Lawsuit against ex-SFPD officer settled

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe city government has agreed to a $770,000 settlement in a lawsuit in which eight women claimed stalking and harassment by former city police officer Michael Eiskant.

EISKANT: Accused of harassment, stalking

EISKANT: Accused of harassment, stalking

The judge’s recent dismissal order specifies that nothing in the settlement precludes other women who may allege misconduct by Eiskant from filing their own lawsuits.

“The sense of safety and security that these eight women enjoyed was stolen from them,” said John Bienvenu, one of their attorneys. “But they refused to be silenced or intimidated, and they hope that their example will empower others who were victimized to seek similar vindication so that this never happens again.”

Sonya Carrasco Trujillo, a lawyer who has served as a fill-in municipal judge and now works at the state Attorney General’s Office, was one of the plaintiffs who alleged stalking by Eiskant.

“No amount of money will ever restore my ability to feel safe and secure in my home town, and that’s unfortunate,” she said Thursday. “That’s a consequence of one bad actor and a bunch of supervisors who knew he was a bad actor and did nothing about it.”

Carrasco Trujillo said she’s married to a retired State Police officer, is part of a law enforcement family and respects the work that police do to protect the community. “It’s a shame this one bad actor and the city caused all this trauma for women in Santa Fe,” she said.

City government provided no comment on the settlement. A message left for an attorney representing Eiskant was not returned.

City government defendants had previously agreed to pay more than $55,000 to settle with one of the female plaintiffs, Tricia McFaul, wife of a State Police officer. She maintained Eiskant improperly used police resources to access her personal information.

The suit sought damages from Eiskant, the city and former Police Chief Ray Rael.

Since the suit was filed in 2012, city government has found itself in the position of defending Eiskant against a long list of sometimes salacious allegations, despite the fact that Eiskant himself pleaded no contest to criminal charges brought in 2012 by the Attorney General’s office for his interactions with women as a police officer.

The criminal charges included two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of harassment, stalking, attempt to commit the felony of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and two counts of unauthorized computer use.

He also pleaded no contest to a count of larceny and a count of marijuana possession for taking pot away from somebody.

Eiskant in April 2012 gave up his law enforcement license and later successfully completed probation. Under a “conditional discharge” he was granted, the charges were wiped from his record. He retired from the SFPD before the charges were filed.

The women’s suit maintained the city ignored repeated complaints against Eiskant, and that Rael had rejected complaints from two female officers that Eiskant had followed and harassed them. The city defendants, including Rael, have denied the allegations.

Plaintiffs attorney Bienvenu said Thursday that case was not just about “one rogue officer.”

He said the trauma the women experienced “could have and should have been prevented by the Santa Fe Police Department, which is responsible for turning a blind eye to 12 years of complaints against this officer and permitting him to prey upon the public.”

Women’s allegations

The suit said plaintiff McFaul believed Eiskant came to her neighborhood “after having obtained her address through his unlawful search of her license records, consistent with his pattern of stalking females with whom he comes in contact.”

McFaul’s $55,000 portion of the settlement is included in the $770,000 final settlement total for all the plaintiffs, said Bienvenu. Each of the eight plaintiffs received part of the settlement, he said.

Among the other plaintiffs were two former police officers, a woman who worked in the city prosecutor’s office and a State Police human resources administrator.

“It’s such a wide area of women who can be victims,” said Carrasco Trujillo. “You can be a judge, a lawyer, a teacher, fellow officers. I hope other women who feel threatened or harassed or stalked take courage, and know that you have to speak up and take care of yourself, and make yourself heard.”

The women’s allegations, in addition to stalking and improper personal records searches, included alleged flirting, leering and staring by Eiskant; harassing text messages from him without their ever having given Eiskant a phone number; alleged following by Eiskant; and an instance in which Eiskant allegedly followed a woman into a parking lot and blocked her in, then thrust his pelvis provocatively near her face, making the woman feel “disgusted and violated.”

The suit also refers to a 2005 case in which Eiskant was accused by a female police informant of sexually assaulting her at a hotel and of trying to get her to sign a contract to do pornographic videos, according to State Police reports.

Eiskant denied any criminal wrongdoing and the assault charge was never substantiated. But Eiskant did admit being aroused during the encounter in the hotel room. He was given a weeks-long suspension from police duty and, in 2007, got a month’s suspension from the state Law Enforcement Academy Board.

The Journal reported on that episode at the time. In early 2012, new news reports began to surface about complaints from other women. Around the same time, Eiskant quietly retired. In what had the appearance of a plea agreement, all in one day the AG’s Office filed charges against him and he pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor counts.

The Public Employees Retirement Association has said Eiskant has an annual pension of $45,950 a year.

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