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Child victims of ECSO deputy sex ring file lawsuit against agency, Sheriff Morgan

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The twin minors victimized in a sex ring with their mother, stepfather and Escambia County Sheriff's Office personnel have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Sheriff David Morgan allowed the activities.

The girls, now both adults, were sexually assaulted by ECSO Deputy Walter Thomas; their stepfather, Doug Manning; and their mother, ECSO Nurse Leah Manning, for a period around 2014 when they were minors.

Thomas was sentenced to 30 years in prison, followed by 15 years of sex offender probation. Doug Manning was sentenced to 30 years in prison and given a lifelong sex offender probation sentence. Leah Manning was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

A fourth defendant, ECSO Deputy Mark Smith, was found not guilty by a jury in 2016.

The women's lawsuits, which were filed individually Oct. 18, name Morgan, Smith and the Escambia County Sheriff's Office as defendants. One of the lawsuits also names Thomas as a defendant, and the other one does not.

The women were repeatedly sexually assaulted in their home, which they shared with Doug and Leah Manning. The couple would invite their friends to have sex with them and the children, according to testimony presented at the defendants' trials.

The women claim in their civil lawsuits that Morgan should have reasonably known what was going on during that period.

"Defendant Morgan tolerated the sexual activities of his deputy sheriffs, staff, and/or employees, including those of defendant Smith and Walter 'Mike' Thomas because of his friendship and personal relationship with (Leah Manning)," the lawsuit states.

ECSO spokeswoman Amber Southard said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation. She said ECSO is in arbitration with Smith regarding his termination as a result of his initial charges.

The women's lawsuit also claims Smith and other ECSO deputies drove to the home in their patrol cars and in uniform to engage in the sexual activities, sometimes still wearing their uniforms during the course of the assault.

The lawsuit claims Morgan and the ECSO deliberately failed to investigate reports of widespread sexual promiscuity by his employees, and further states he deliberately failed to report the possible sexual abuse of the plaintiffs. It alleges a "pattern and practice of tolerance" in allowing employees to act in that manner while in uniform and driving a patrol vehicle.

When Leah Manning was sentenced in January to 25 years in prison, one of the victims stood and pleaded with Judge Joel Boles for leniency to allow the family to rebuild relationships.

"Doug Manning made my mom as much a victim as we were, my mom is not what everyone says she is," the victim said during Leah Manning's sentencing.

Boles told Manning she had done irreparable harm to her daughters, and said at the time it was one of the most egregious cases he'd ever seen.

Leah and Doug Manning and Thomas are not named as defendants in the civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit does not state a figure for the damages sought, but seeks a jury trial.

http://www.pnj.com/story/news/crime/2017/10/26/child-victims-ecso-deputy-sex-ring-file-lawsuit-against-agency-sheriff-morgan/798876001/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=

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