Sisters win sex lawsuit vs. dad $2.3 million given for years of abuse
By Howard Prankratz
Denver Post Legal Affairs Writer
Two daughters of former state and federal law enforcement official Edward Rodgers were awarded $2.319,400 yesterday, after a Denver judge and jury found that the women suffered years of abuse at the hands of their father.
The award to Sharon Simone, 45, and Susan Hammond, 44, followed testimony of Rodgers’ four daughters in person or through depositions, describing repeated physical abuse and sexual assaults by their father from 1944 through 1965.
Rodgers, 72, who became a child abuse expert after retiring from the FBI and joining the colorado Springs DA’s office, failed to appear for the trial. But in a deposition taken in March, Rodgers denied ever hitting or sexually abusing his children.
He admitted that he thought of himself as a “domineering s.o.b. who demanded strict responses from my children, strict obedience.” But it never approached child abuse, Rodgers said. “Did I make mistakes? Damn right I did, just like any other father or mother…”
Thomas Gresham, Rodger’s former attorney, withdrew from the case recently after being unable to locate his client. Rodgers recently contacted one of his sons from a Texas town along the Mexican border. Gresham said his last contact with Rodgers was on April 24.
The sisters reacted quietly to the verdict, and with relief that their stories of abuse had finally been told.
“I feel really good that I’ve gone public with this,”Hammond said. “I am a victim, the shame isn’t mine, the horror happened to me. I’m not bad.
“My father did shameful and horrible things to me and my brothers and sisters. I don’t believe he is a shameful and horrible man, but he has to be held accountable,” Hammond added.
The lawsuit deeply divided the Rodgers family, with Rodgers’ three sons questioning their sister’s motives.
Immediately after the verdict, son Steve Rodgers, 37, reacted angrily, yelling at his sisters in the courtroom.
Later, Rodgers said he loves his father and stands by him. He said his sisters had told him their father had to be exposed the way Nazi war criminals have been exposed.
“In a way I’m angry with my father for not being here. But I’m sympathetic because he would have walked into a gross crucifixion,” Rodgers said.
Steve Rodgers never denied that he and his siblings were physically abused, but disputed that his father molested his sisters.
Before the jury’s award, Denver District Judge William Meyer found that Rodger’s conduct toward Simone and Hammond was negligent and “outrageous.”
Despite the length of time since the abuse, the jury determined the sisters could legally bring the suit. The statute of limitations for a civil suit is two years, but jurors determined that the sisters became aware of he nature and extent of their injury only within the last two years, during therapy.
The jury then determined the damages, finding $1,240,000 for Simone and 1,079,000 for Hammond.
The sisters had alleged in their suit filed last July that Rodgers subjected his seven children to a “pattern of emotional, physical, sexual and incestual abuse.”
As a result of the abuse, the women claimed their emotional lives had been left in a shambles, requiring extensive therapy for both and repeated hospitalizations of Hammond, who was acutely suicidal. Simone developed obsessive behavior and became so unable to function she resigned a position with a Boston-based college.
Despite the judgment yesterday, Rodgers cannot be criminally charged. the statue of limitations in Colorado for sexual assault on children is 10 years.
Rodgers, who worked for the FBI for 27 years, much of it in Denver, became chief investigator for the district attorney’s office in Colorado Sp;rings. during his employment at the DA’s office from 1967 until 1983, he became a well-known figure in Colorado Springs, and lectured and wrote about child abuse both locally and nationwide.
He wrote a manual called ” A Compendium — Child Abuse by the National College of District Attorney’s,” and helped put together manuals on child abuse for the New York state police and a national child abuse center.