In 2015, the then-13-year-old was found by Lowell police officer James “Paul” Blair, who was assigned to her case. After returning the teen home, Blair began showing up at her home and taking the teen on late-night rides in his patrol car, according to court documents obtained by The Charlotte Observer.
The girl’s parents, who believed Blair was acting as a mentor figure, were convinced by the officer to let him spend time with the teen. Instead of providing guidance to the girl, Blair initiated “numerous sexual acts” with her in his patrol car while he was in uniform and still on duty, said the documents.
When the girl was 14-year-old, she became pregnant with Blair’s child. In 2017, Blair pleaded guilty to statutory rape and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Now, the teen and her mother are seeking damages for the physical and emotional damage they endured from Blair’s sexual assault. In addition, the family is seeking to be reimbursed for the costs of delivering and now raising Blair’s infant son.
The lawsuit also names Lowell police Chief Scott Bates and the city of Lowell and alleges that both parties were aware of Blair’s history of improper contact with minors. The suit claims Blair is a sexual predator who should have not been put in positions that allowed him to have contact with children.
“The biggest issue here is that Blair had a long and well-known history of engaging in this kind of behavior, and the city of Lowell knew about it,” Charlotte attorney Brad Smith, whose firm filed the complaint, told the Observer. “What happened to this child is tragic and horrible. Presumably, it could have been prevented.”
The lawsuit accuses Blair of assault and battery. The victim and her mother are seeking medical expenses, as well as punitive and compensatory damages, claiming that the teenage victim was deprived “of her right to freedom from unlawful assault, battery and sexual contact at the hands of police.”
City attorney Scott MacLatchie disputed the allegations that police and city leaders wittingly hid Blair’s past. MacLatchie said the former officer pleaded guilty in court to “a single off-duty incident that had nothing to do with his employment.”
“It’s very unfortunate what happened to this girl and her family,” MacLatchie told the Observer. “It is my position that the person responsible is in prison right now, and that the city of Lowell is in no way responsible for what this man did off duty and on his own time.”