IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Attorneys for Chris Tapp filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Idaho Falls and seven former Idaho Falls Police Department officers to seek justice and accountability for their coordinated campaign to wrongly convict him, Thursday.
This comes after Tapp was wrongfully sentenced to prison for the rape and murder of Angie Dodge in 1996. After more than 20 years in prison, new DNA testing identified another suspect, Brian Dripps. Dripps is set to stand trial in June following 7th District Judge Joel Tingey's decision to move the trial to Bannock County.
"In 35 years of litigating wrongful conviction cases, this is the longest and most abusive coerced false confession I have ever seen," said Peter Neufeld, one of Tapp's attorneys. "Despite early DNA evidence showing that Tapp was not the source of the perpetrator DNA evidence, Idaho Falls police officers, in an effort to break Tapp's will, subjected him to about 60 hours of coercive interrogations and 7 sham polygraphs, repeatedly threatened him with execution, and fed him multiple secret details about the crime that only the real perpetrator would know and then falsely reported that Tapp had volunteered those details."
Tapp is being represented by the firm of Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin of New York City. He is seeking damages from the period of his arrest on January 11, 1997 through each year of incarceration. The suit lists those damages including personal injuries, pain and suffering, severe mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of family relationships, severe psychological damage, damage to business and property, legal expenses, loss of income, inflection of physical illness, inadequate medical care, humiliation, indignities and embarrassment, degradation, permanent loss of natural psychological development and restrictions on all forms of personal freedom.
In a statement from the City of Idaho Falls, “The city has an obligation to the public to exercise great care in all legal matters. In any pending litigation, public statements always carry the possibility of being used by the various parties involved to the benefit or detriment of the others, which is why we generally do not provide comment on legal matters. We are aware of the lawsuit and demands being made by Mr. Tapp’s attorneys and intend to respond to them through the proper legal channels in the course of the legal process.”
Tapp was released in 2017, and DNA evidence cleared him of the convictions in a court hearing on July 17, 2019, but his lawyers say Tapp wasn't given the proper resources to re-enter society.
“Because of what the Idaho Falls police did to me, I lost the opportunity to raise a family, pursue a career, and to share in the most basic freedoms that we all live for,” said Tapp, “I continue to live every day with the nightmare of the 22 years the Idaho Falls police stole from me.”
In a statement from Tapps lawyers they said "Although Tapp can never fully recover what he lost, this lawsuit seeks some measure of justice for the decades he spent unjustly behind bars, and accountability for those who put him there."
Tapp appeared before Idaho's House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee back in February to testify in favor of legislation that would compensate the wrongly convicted. The legislation brought forward by Republican Rep. Doug Ricks would have paid $60,000 a year for wrongful incarceration and $75,000 per year for those wrongfully placed on death row. Idaho Gov. Brad Little vetoed that legislation, stating that he in favor of the measure's objective, but that its process was flawed.