A former Tennessee police officer fired after her alleged role in a sexual misconduct scandal has sued the city she once served, alleging that her bosses and supervisors targeted her for sexual exploitation.
Maegan Hall, who joined the La Vergne Police Department as an officer in February 2021, was fired in January after a sexual misconduct scandal that was exposed following an anonymous complaint and an investigation by local NBC affiliate WSMV.
Now, she is suing the city of La Vergne, her former police chief Burrel “Chip” Davis, former sergeant Henry “Ty” McGowan, and former sergeant Lewis Powell — all of whom, Hall says, conspired to sexually groom and exploit her before using her as a scapegoat for the sexual misconduct scandal.
In a lawsuit filed Friday, Hall accused her supervisors and the since-fired chief of police of preying on her and taking advantage of her, starting when she was a “vulnerable and optimistic 24-year-old woman” applying to join the La Vergne police department.
“In place of offering professional development, her supervisors and the Chief of Police groomed her for sexual exploitation,” the complaint says. “They colluded in using their authority to systematically disarm her resistance and entrap her in degrading and abusive sexual relationships, even sharing tips on the best ways to manipulate and exploit her.”
That collusion allegedly included encouraging Hall to “lie about her history of mental health problems” during the psychological evaluation that was required of all police applicants. Hall also says that from the start of her employment with the police department, she “experienced a workplace environment permeated with sexual innuendo and sexually explicit behavior.”
According to Hall’s complaint, her male colleagues routinely discussed “sexual preferences, sexual attractiveness, and sex acts they had performed on women,” sharing intimate photos of themselves in her presence, making sexually suggestive comments, and sexually propositioning her.
“During her employment, Ms. Hall was groomed to engage in sexually exploitative activities by men in the department, including Sgt. Powell, Sgt. McGowan, and Chief Davis,” the complaint says.
The complaint provides a doctor’s description of a seven-stage “grooming process” and argues that the police chief and sergeants followed that playbook.
Powell, the complaint says, repeatedly used his position of authority to coerce Hall into sexual acts. Although Hall repeatedly told him she wasn’t interested, Powell persisted and eventually “gave in to Sgt. Powell’s requests for sexual favors.” Hall describes multiple instances of non-consensual sexual activity, including Powell removing a condom during sex and taking pictures or video of her without consent during a sexual act.
“At least one of these non-consensual intimate visual depictions ended up in the possession of Sgt. McGowan and Chief Davis,” the complaint says.
Powell also allegedly warned Hall that “if anyone finds out or if you sleep with anyone else, then it’s over, things are going to be different, work’s going to be different,” according to the complaint. After several months, she told Powell that the situation was causing “psychological distress” and affecting her ability to perform her duties. He allegedly told her that if she sought help, she would be seen as a “weak female officer” and no one would trust her, and urged her to “suck it up” and focus on work, the complaint says.
Within hours of that conversation, Hall was involved in an on-duty car crash; months later, she was involved in a more serious collision while on duty, resulting in her being taken to the hospital.
McGowan’s treatment of Hall was similarly exploitative and coercive, the complaint says. The sergeant repeatedly touched her buttocks, sexually propositioned her, made “sexual moaning noises” when she would walk into a room, and offered to set up an “OnlyFans” account that he would manage, in which Hall would “have sex with other men so Sgt. McGowan could watch.”
Hall says that she repeatedly rejected McGowan’s sexual advances, despite his repeated requests. However, when she went to McGowan for advice on dealing with psychological stress at work and concerns about her job following the second car crash, McGowan allegedly exploited her vulnerability.
“Sgt. McGowan promised that he could protect Ms. Hall’s position in the department,” the complaint says. “He mentioned that her on-duty auto collisions could prevent her from getting promoted but that he had the power to ensure Ms. Hall got the promotion. Contemporaneously with these promises, Sgt. McGowan propositioned Ms. Hall for sexual intercourse.”
Hall relented, the complaint says, and her “mental condition continued to deteriorate between November and December 2022.”
The complaint also accuses the male officers of conspiring to exploit and intimidate Hall and interfere with the police department’s initial investigation — and according to the lawsuit, it worked.
“The Initial [La Vergne Police Department] Report framed all of the sexual activity as being perpetrated or initialed by Ms. Hall,” the complaint says, resulting in her firing.
The report, however, “intentionally omitted [Hall’s] specific and detailed sexual abuse and harassment” by Powell, resulting in Hall being dubbed the “girls gone wild” female police officer and launching her to widespread internet notoriety, the complaint says.
“But for the sexual grooming and abuse perpetrated by the City of La Vergne, Sgt. McGowan, Sgt. Powell, and Chief Davis, Ms. Hall would not have been subjected to this extraordinary degree of public ridicule and shaming,” the complaint alleges.
Davis, the police chief at the time, was also complicit in Hall’s exploitation, the complaint alleges. According to a series of text messages revealed during an independent investigation into sexual misconduct within the department, Davis shared his highly-sexualized opinions of Hall with McGowan.
That investigation also revealed that Davis had used a “burner phone” that he called “Ole Boy” to “solicit intimate visual depictions” of Hall from McGowan. According to the investigation report, Davis “received nude photos and videos” of Hall and other female La Vergne police officers and noted that the “volume of pornographic material passing through the Chief’s personal phones should have put any reasonable supervisor on notice that the risk of a sexually hostile work environment in the Department was unacceptably high.”
The complaint alleges that when Hall tried to complain about Powell, Davis “intentionally intimidated [Hall] by his presence during her interviews to ensure that she did not name him as a perpetrator of sexual harassment or abuse.”
The complaint includes screen grabs of Facebook messages between Hall and Davis in which the chief said Hall was “super fired” for allegedly ignoring him earlier that day. Those text exchanges also show Hall’s repeated efforts to deflect sexually suggestive remarks from her boss.
Hall is seeking a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages.
A representative for La Vergne told Law&Crime that the city is unable to comment on pending litigation.
You can read the complaint here, the internal investigation report here, and the independent investigation report here.
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