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Lawsuit accuses Medford officer of returning teen to abuser

A new lawsuit claims that a Medford police officer missed “red flags” in a teen sex abuse investigation that subjected the victim to an additional two weeks with her alleged abuser.

The 16-year-old’s guardian wants $2.5 million from the city on accusations that Medford police officer Ashlee McFall overlooked false information given by a teen and a 46-year-old man allegedly abusing the girl in early October 2020, according to the lawsuit filed June 8 in U.S. District Court in Medford.

“However, rather than protect [the victim], Medford police instead returned her to the custody of her abuser,” the lawsuit, filed with the aid of Portland lawyer Christopher Lundberg states. This was due to the failure of McFall to confirm the identity of the man who picked up the girl from the emergency room, who was posing as her father, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit does not name the teen or her alleged abuser, but the dates and circumstances match those surrounding the arrest of Jacob James Townsend, 47, who remains held in the Jackson County Jail after an Oct. 19 arrest on custodial interference, sexual abuse and drug charges. Townsend is accused of injecting a mixture of methamphetamine and heroin into the girl before she was taken to the emergency room at Rogue Regional Medical Center, according to an earlier Mail Tribune report.

Jackson County Circuit Court records show that the grand jury’s indictment against Townsend — surrounding alleged abuses that started in August and ended in October — drew from the testimony of two Medford police officers, one of whom was McFall.

The lawsuit seeks damages “in an amount to be ... proven at trial, but currently estimated to be at least $2.5 million” based on claims of state created danger, failure to train and negligence. The lawsuit alleges that the officer placed the teen “in a situation where she was at greater risk of harm from her abuser than when Officer McFall found her.”

In an email, Medford Deputy City Attorney Eric Mitton said that, “Due to the privacy interests involved and the pending litigation, the city is not in a position to provide any comment at this time.”

When McFall questioned the teen Oct. 3 about the abuse at the hospital, the teen grew fearful and gave the officer false information, according to the lawsuit. Her mother was out of town, and she feared how her father would react.

“[The teen] was scared about getting in trouble — so she lied about some of the details,” the lawsuit states.

The teen gave the officer false physical descriptions of her abuser and a false last name.

“However, she told Officer McFall her abuser’s correct first name,” the lawsuit states.

The teen allegedly told the officer that Townsend’s phone number was her father’s, according to the lawsuit, and states that she “texted her abuser and asked him to pose as her father” while the officer was distracted.

The lawsuit claims that the teen provided not one, but two false addresses for her father. There was no house at the first address the teen provided, and nobody was home at the second.

Townsend arrived at the hospital two hours later. The lawsuit claims that Townsend did not match the physical description the teen provided of her father, and that Townsend provided a middle name that didn’t match the one provided by the teen.

“During that time, Officer McFall did not request to see the abuser’s identification,” the lawsuit states.

The officer told Townsend of the sexual abuse investigation and, believing him to be her father, asked if he'd authorize a search of the teen’s phone. Townsend refused.

"Despite those red flags, Officer McFall released Jane Doe to her abuser without verifying his identity,“ the lawsuit states.

Townsend allegedly “continued to physically, sexually and verbally harm and threaten Jane Doe for approximately two weeks,” the lawsuit states.

Townsend was arrested Oct. 19, according to a previous Mail Tribune report that drew from a Medford police affidavit that has since been sealed in court records. Court records show that the grand jury dropped Townsend’s charges of custodial interference in the case, but Townsend remains held in the Jackson County Jail on $760,000 bail.

Townsend is awaiting a trial scheduled for Sept. 21 on sexual abuse, drug, identity theft and child pornography charges, court records show.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.