A Brooklyn woman who has long said the NYPD botched the investigation into her rape in 2010 has filed a new lawsuit against her alleged attacker.
Gina Tron, 41, said she was one of the people who wrote to the U.S. Department of Justice to complain about how the NYPD sex crimes unit handled her case before federal officials announced they were investigating allegations that officers in the unit were shaming, abusing and retraumatizing survivors. The investigation is ongoing, according to the DOJ. Tron sued using the Adult Survivors Act, a state law that provides a one-year window to bring sexual assault claims beyond the statute of limitations.
In a lawsuit filed late Thursday and shared first with Gothamist, Tron said a stranger at a Brooklyn bar lured her into his car to do drugs, refused to let her out, took her to his apartment and then forced her to perform oral sex and raped her. The suit also claims police and prosecutors didn’t take her case seriously.
The one-year window to bring lawsuits under the Adult Survivors Act closes next Thursday, and Tron’s lawsuit is one of more than 2,000 filed so far. Many last-minute filings are expected ahead of the deadline.
“I didn’t want to give up my one last chance to get legal justice for my situation,” Tron said in an interview.
Tron says she was with friends from her book club at a Park Slope bar in October 2010 when a man she hadn’t met before introduced himself as “Sam” and invited her and a friend to do cocaine in the bathroom. Afterward, Tron went outside to smoke a cigarette, the lawsuit states.
The man, identified in the lawsuit as Saadi Ouaaz, asked Tron if she wanted to come to his car to do more cocaine, according to the suit. That’s when Tron says she got nervous. But his car was parked right in front of the bar, and she told herself she could get out if she needed to.
After some hesitation, Tron says, she got inside. Ouaaz immediately locked the doors and started to drive, according to the lawsuit. Tron repeatedly asked where they were going and begged him to turn around, the suit states. When they arrived outside his apartment in Sunset Park, the lawsuit says, she texted her friend the address of a nearby building and the word “help.”
Tron says they walked into his apartment, where graphic pornography was playing on a computer. Ouaaz ignored her pleas to let her go after she offered him all the cash in her pocket, according to the lawsuit.
Ouaaz ordered Tron to perform oral sex, threatened to kill her and violently raped her, the lawsuit states. She says he also yelled at her and called her sexist epithets.
Terrified, Tron ran out of the apartment after Ouaaz left the room, according to the lawsuit. She says she took a cab back to the bar and told her friends what happened.
Tron was nervous about going to the police, especially because she had been using drugs. But two days later, the lawsuit states, she filed a police report and went to the hospital for a forensic exam. By then, she had showered and changed her clothes, so investigators couldn’t gather DNA evidence, according to the suit.
Detectives from the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, which investigates sex crimes, interviewed Tron at the hospital. Tron’s lawsuit says she felt like they “viewed her with suspicion” and said her drug use could diminish her credibility. She says one of the detectives asked her if she was a “party girl.”
Tron later said she felt like the police dehumanized her and judged her.
“I had pretty low expectations of what could happen,” she told Gothamist. “What I saw happen to me was way worse than I could have even imagined.”
Police linked Ouaaz to two other rapes committed by someone who matched his physical description and approximate address, according to the lawsuit. He was indicted on two counts of first-degree rape, after Tron and another woman testified before a grand jury, the suit states.
But about a year-and-a-half later, the lawsuit says, a prosecutor in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office called Tron and told her that a judge had tossed the indictment on a technicality. She and Ouaaz both testified before a new grand jury in March 2012, according to the lawsuit. This time, he was not indicted.
Two attorneys who have represented Ouaaz in the past did not respond to requests for comment. A phone call and text message to Ouaaz were not returned. Ouaaz has denied the allegations against him in the past, according to a cease-and-desist letter published by Tron’s attorneys that she received in 2022 after sharing her story online. The NYPD and the city’s legal department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Brooklyn DA’s office said it does not comment on sealed cases.
Calls for reform at the NYPD
For years after her criminal case fell apart, Tron said she sought justice. She also connected with other people who said detectives in the NYPD Special Victims Division had mistreated them when they reported sex crimes. The group wrote letters to the U.S. Department of Justice, urging investigators to look into allegations of civil rights violations and gender bias within the unit.
The Special Victims Division has long been plagued with staffing shortages and other systemic issues. In 2018, the city’s Department of Investigation released a report that found the unit was not properly investigating sexual assault cases. The next year, reports emerged that the NYPD had been undercounting rapes since 2012.
After the letter campaign, Tron said, the DOJ started to interview survivors, including her. She said the investigators spoke to her with a level of respect that NYPD detectives had not.
“It really healed a part of me,” she said.
In June 2022, the DOJ announced it was launching a “comprehensive review” of the unit’s policies, procedures and training. The department said it had received information about problems that had persisted for more than a decade.
“Words cannot express how happy I am that that’s going on now,” Tron said.
The NYPD has taken steps to reform the unit, including implementing more “survivor-centric” procedures. The department has also been ramping up training for trauma-informed sexual assault victim interviews, according to the latest Mayor’s Management Report.
Tron’s lawsuit does not name the NYPD as a defendant, because there is a high legal threshold required to prove police liability, according to her attorney, Julia Elmaleh-Sachs. A plaintiff would have to prove that the NYPD’s actions enabled an assault to find them liable, she said.
Alison Turkos, a survivor and one of the lead advocates behind the DOJ investigation and the Adult Survivors Act, said it may be worth pursuing an update to the law that would allow people who believe the NYPD mishandled their cases to sue the department.
Turkos has been pursuing a lawsuit against the NYPD regarding its handling of her rape investigation for nearly five years. She said the process has been grueling. But she hopes her lawsuit will spark positive change in a unit that she says has harmed survivors for years.
“There are survivors who will walk into police precincts in the five boroughs to report their crime and their sexual assault,” Turkos said. “So, what can we do to ensure that they’re treated with dignity and respect?”