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Harvey Settles Lawsuit Over Mishandled Rape Cases

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city of Harvey has settled a series of lawsuits stemming from rape kits that went untested for years.

"This is one of the first, if not the first settlement in the country dealing with these rape kits," said attorney Yao Dinizulu, who represented the seven rape victims who sued Harvey, after a 2007 raid uncovered 200 untested rape kits.

The victims, who reported they were sexually assaulted between 1997 and 2008, alleged Harvey police did not investigate their cases in a timely fashion, and violated their due process by not submitting the rape kits to the Illinois State Police crime lab.

"Unfortunately, their rape kits, and the investigations were extremely sloppy, and – for the most part – did not go forward. In one of the cases, the rape kit sat for 10 years," Dinizulu said.

Cook County prosecutors, Cook County Sheriff's police, and Illinois State police raided the Harvey Police Department in 2007, and found more than 200 untested rape kits.

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In one case, Harvey police allegedly allowed a Cook County correctional officer to get away with molesting his stepdaughter for several years.

The 11-year-old victim told her mother about the assault and a rape kit analysis was done at the hospital shortly after the attack. The victim's mother contacted Harvey Police, who questioned the defendant in August 1997, but released him without charges and without ever sending the sexual assault kit to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for testing.

It wasn't until 2011, after prosecutors had seized the untested rape kits, that DNA evidence linked her stepfather to the crime. Her stepfather, 49-year-old Robert Buchanan, is now serving a 6-year sentence for predatory criminal sexual assault.

Harvey has agreed to pay the victim in that case $1.2 million. The other six women's cases were settled for a combined $241,250.

Dinizulu said the settlement was not so much about money, but reform at the department.

"Between this lawsuit, and the U.S. Department of Justice, we have been able to put the type of pressure to allow for Harvey to change a lot of their protocols and training," he said.

The settlement requires Harvey to provide more training to officers on how to handle rape cases, and properly report statistics to state police.

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