Nebraska Sheriff Held Liable for Ignoring Rape Claim

In April the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff who ignored a cross-dressing women’s rape report could be held liable in civil court for neglect.

The case, which was the basis for the movie Boys Don’t Cry, involved the rape and murder of 21-year-old Teena Brandon. Brandon was a cross-dresser who posed as a man and called herself Brandon Teena.

In 1993, Brandon went to Sheriff Charles Laux and reported that two friends of hers discovered that she was, in fact, a woman, and had subsequently raped her. She also reported that her acquaintances said they would kill her if she reported the rape.

Laux did not arrest the alleged rapists nor conduct a serious investigation of Brandon’s claims, but he did subject her to a tape-recorded interview that the Nebraska Supreme Court described as “demeaning, accusatory and intimidating,” including referring to the Brandon as “it.”

A week after reporting the alleged rape, Brandon’s two acquaintances — John Lotter and Marvin Nessen — murdered her at a farmhouse. Lotter was sentenced to die for his part in the crime, and Lott was sentenced to life in prison, though neither man was ever charged with rape.

Brandon’s mother, Joan Brandon, sued Laux in civil court, arguing that he acted negligently by not arresting Lotter and Nissen immediately and by not offering Teena Brandon protective custody. She won a $17,360 judgment. Laux appealed the judgment, but the Nebraska Supreme Court found that he had acted negligently and bumped the judgment up to $80,000.


‘Boys Don’t Cry’ Sheriff Negligent. Kevin O’Hanlon, Associated Press, April 20, 2001.August 3, 1994

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