A federal court is ordering all sides in the Jane Doe lawsuits against Horry County and the police department to try and mediate a settlement before the cases go to trial later this year.
But before the lawyers can even gather around a courthouse table to begin discussions, the county is asking the court to delay a potential trial date until next summer.
In court papers filed June 30 with the U.S. District Court of South Carolina Florence Division, a lawyer for the county says that key interviews with their clients for depositions have not been held, including one with former Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes.
Rhodes stepped down just months before former detective, Allen Large, was indicted by a grand jury.
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Large already has undergone more than five hours of questioning for his deposition.
Lisa Thomas, the lawyer representing the county, did not return a phone call for comment.
“It is county policy not to provide any commentary on substantive matters relating to pending litigation,” said Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for Horry County.
Rhodes told The Sun News Thursday that she has been available for “numerous” depositions, but the questioning sessions have been canceled.
“I am not missing in action,” Rhodes said. “I’ve shown up every time a deposition has been scheduled and showed up for deposition preps, and then I get a phone call and the deposition is canceled.”
Rhodes said she did not know whether the depositions had been postponed by the Jane Doe lawyers, or by the county’s lawyers.
Large is accused of sexually assaulting or harassing the women known as Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4, who filed suit against the county and police department in the spring and summer of last year. The women also say Large tried to pressure them into participating in a sub genre of pornography called catfighting.
“In the event any case does not settle,” the county asked the court to give them until January to finish the discovery process, including the deposition with Rhodes and another defendant, former Sgt. Thomas Delpercio.
Both sides were scheduled for three days of mediation beginning July 19 to try and settle the three lawsuits.
In asking for this and other delays, the county said it would still move forward with mediation this month, but wants jury trials scheduled for October be delayed until June.
They also propose that mediation again be held in March.
The lawyer representing the Jane Doe women is out of town and could not be reached for comment.
In court documents, the county notes that it has been unable to get an expert witness to commit to appearing on their behalf until all of the depositions have been completed, but does not explain why two of their clients have not completed them.
All three of the women have faced questioning by lawyers in depositions for a total of 12 hours, and three of the county defendants have undergone depositions for a combined six-and-a-half hours, according to court documents.
“The court has discretion to modify the scheduling order in the interests of justice,” the county’s court motion said.
“(Jane Does) deserve to have their stories heard. Likewise, these (county and police defendants) deserve to fully explore the evidence against them stemming from (Jane Doe’s ) allegations and fully defend their professional and personal reputations,” the motion said.
The county reached a settlement agreement with Jane Doe 1 in January. Another woman who is not part of these lawsuits filed separately as a Jane Doe 5, and also settled her case out of court.