Christopher Tapp, who spent nearly half his life in prison for crimes he didn’t commit, has sent the city of Idaho Falls a notice that he intends to file a lawsuit against the Idaho Falls Police Department.
“Mr. Tapp will seek damages for his unjust conviction and imprisonment for over twenty years,” the notice said.
The notice is a prelude to the lawsuit itself, which may not be filed for months.
City of Idaho Falls Spokesman Bud Cranor confirmed the city had received the notice.
The notice claims the police department violated Tapp’s First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The notice also accuses the department of wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, defamation and malicious prosecution.
Tapp referred all requests for comment to his attorney.
Tapp is being represented by nationally known attorney Peter Neufeld of Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin, a New York City law firm. Neufeld, who is a founder of the Innocence Project, spoke at Tapp’s exoneration in July. He also was a defense attorney for O.J. Simpson during his notorious 1995 murder trial.
Neufeld accused the Idaho Falls Police Department of ignoring evidence that showed Tapp was innocent, including that his DNA did not match samples recovered from the crime scene.
“They could have remedied this several years earlier and they didn’t,” Neufeld said.
Tapp was arrested in 1997 and found guilty by a jury in 1998 for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge. The Bonneville County Prosecutor’s Office based its case on a confession made by Tapp, as well as testimony by Destiny Osborne that she overheard Tapp and Benjamin Hobbs talking about stabbing Dodge. Hobbs was suspected of participating in the rape and murder with Tapp. Crime scene DNA also didn’t match Hobbs’ genetic profile and he was never charged in the murder.
Tapp’s confession came under scrutiny earlier this decade after Judges for Justice and the Idaho Innocence Project examined recordings of his statements. The recordings showed Idaho Falls Police Department officers had told Tapp he could face the death penalty if he did not confess, and that he could receive a light sentence if he named others involved in the case.
The DNA recovered from the crime scene, including a semen sample, did not match Tapp. It also did not match any of the individuals Tapp claimed participated in the rape and murder, including Hobbs.
Tapp was released from prison in 2017 as part of a plea agreement that dismissed the rape conviction, but kept the murder conviction on his record.
In May, the Idaho Falls Police Department found a match for the suspect’s DNA that had been left at the crime scene and arrested Brian Dripps for the rape and murder of Angie Dodge. Dripps told police he acted alone and did not know Tapp.
The prosecutor’s office filed a motion to exonerate Tapp that was accepted by District Judge Alan Stephens on July 17.
The notice also accuses the department of coercing a false statement from Osborne, who told the Post Register in May that officers told her she could be charged with a crime if she did not testify against Tapp.
“I was manipulated and coerced and fed a huge story and threatened 23 years ago by the many members of the Idaho Falls Police Department to falsely testify against Chris Tapp,” Osborne told the Post Register in May.
Several former Idaho Falls police officers are named in the claim, including former Idaho Falls Mayor and police detective Jared Fuhriman, former detective Kenneth Brown, former detective Phillip Grimes and former detective Steven Finn, all of whom were part of the investigation and interrogation of Tapp.
During Tapp’s interrogation, Fuhriman presented himself as Tapp’s friend, telling Tapp he would take the fall for the crimes alone if he didn’t name Hobbs as the killer.
Fuhriman testified at Tapp’s 1998 trial that detectives did not feed Tapp details of the murder during interrogation. Reviews of the interviews, however, found Tapp did not know details of the crime scene until detectives told him those details. Other times, Tapp repeatedly guessed details, with detectives ignoring his incorrect answers.
Idaho Falls Police Department Public Information Officer Jessica Clements released a statement Thursday in response to the notice.
“The Idaho Falls Police Department is proud of the work done in recent months that led to the arrest of Mr. Dripps and additional information on the Angie Dodge case,” Clements said. “The city has received notice of Mr. Tapp’s intent to file a lawsuit and will participate in the legal process moving forward.”