Alleged rape victim’s family sues The Arc of Hilo, former driver

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The parents of a physically and mentally disabled woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted June 30 in a van owned by The Arc of Hilo are suing the driver and the nonprofit organization.

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The parents of a physically and mentally disabled woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted June 30 in a van owned by The Arc of Hilo are suing the driver and the nonprofit organization.

The civil lawsuit, filed Sept. 21 in Hilo Circuit Court by attorney Robert Marx, names the driver, Louis Sardis, The Arc of Hilo and numerous “Doe” entities as defendants. It seeks unspecified monetary damages and changes to be made in the way the nonprofit — which has a stated mission “to improve the quality of life for people with developmental and/or other disabilities on Hawaii Island through recreational, vocational and life skills training” — transports and supervises clients.

Marx said there’s no monetary figure in mind, but the woman’s parents want specific procedures to be followed in the organization’s treatment of disabled clients.

“Generally, minors and compromised individuals aren’t supposed to be taken care of by members of the opposite sex, especially females by males,” Marx said Monday. “There’s supposed to be a female assistant around at all times. And they violated that internal rule, I think, many times with this guy, and perhaps in other cases. And (the plaintiffs would) like that to change, so there is respect for the rules that prevent this type of occurrence from happening.”

According to the suit, the 65-year-old Sardis picked up the alleged victim at her home, but instead of delivering her to The Arc, he drove to Orchidland Estates subdivision in Puna where he “twice sexually penetrated and assaulted” the woman.

The suit describes the woman as “incapable of appraising the nature of … and … consenting to sexual conduct.” The complaint claims the woman suffered “physical and emotional trauma.”

Police said Sardis and the woman were alone in the van at the time of the alleged attack. The alleged incident was witnessed by two individuals outside the vehicle.

The suit also claims The Arc of Hilo “knew, or … should have known, that a male assistant cannot be left alone with a female client, and had or should have had rules and regulations to prevent such an occurrence.”

Sardis, who has no prior criminal record, is charged with three counts of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault. He pleaded not guilty July 19 to all charges and has a trial date of Nov. 6, but is reportedly considering a plea deal in which incarceration would run concurrently on all charges. First-degree sexual assault is a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.

Deputy Prosecutor Kimberly Angay said Monday that Sardis, who is free on $49,000 bail, was “still mulling over what his options are.”

Debbie Perkins, The Arc of Hilo president and CEO, said in a July 20 email, “In all future articles it should state that Mr. Sardis is no longer with the Arc of Hilo.” She didn’t reply to a follow-up email asking if Sardis was terminated, nor did she return a Monday phone call seeking comment.

Attorney Lincoln Ashida, who represents The Arc, said Monday his client hasn’t been served with the lawsuit.

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“So until that time, the policy of The Arc is not to comment on it,” Ashida said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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