Woman files federal lawsuit against Mt. Vernon, former cop claiming sex assault

EAST ST. LOUIS — A federal lawsuit was filed Friday in East St. Louis against the City of Mt. Vernon and a former Mt. Vernon police officer, accusing the officer of kissing and groping a woman while he was on duty.

The woman claims in her suit that former Mt. Vernon police officer Nicholas Gaines sexually assaulted her after he went to her home for the purpose of obtaining her driver’s license status.

Citing a department investigation, the lawsuit claims Gaines said he used police resources to obtain the woman’s cell phone number, and then called her several times in an effort to meet her because she smiled at him.

He then allegedly returned to the plaintiff’s house later that same day on the premise of conducting a police investigation, flirted with her, kissed her, lifted her shirt and touched her chest. The lawsuit claims he said he wanted to turn her into a drug informant for police department purposes, and wanted to pursue a personal, intimate relationship with her.

The woman alleges that Gaines restrained her and wouldn’t allow her to leave but she was able to flee when noises from his police radio distracted him.

Gaines was reportedly placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation and the Illinois State Police was notified to conduct an investigation. According to the lawsuit, he resigned Nov. 9, 2016, 10 days after the alleged assault.

The lawsuit claims it includes the city of Mt. Vernon because it was aware other people had made “confirmed complaints” against Gaines for sexual harassment and other acts of conduct unbecoming for an officer.

Gaines was subsequently hired full-time by the West Frankfort Police Department, where he had been working with a temporary appointment since January, according to the West Frankford Gazette.