Terry Goddard (D)

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Legal Newsline)-Officials in Arizona are asking a federal judge to dismiss an $8.4 million lawsuit filed by a couple who say they were falsely accused of sexually exploiting their three daughters.

Lisa and Anthony "A.J." Demaree are suing the state of Arizona, Attorney General Terry Goddard's office and the city of Peoria, after they briefly lost custody of their young daughters last year, ages 5, 4 and 1 ½, in August 2008.

Officials took action after an employee at Wal-Mart that summer found several nude images of the girls in photographs left at the store for developing. Neither parent was charged with a crime, but they lost custody of the children for a month.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Gama in October 2008 ruled that the photographs were innocent pictures taken during the children's bath time. Despite the judge's ruling, an investigation by Child Protective Services continued for months.

The couple also has a lawsuit pending against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in which they are seeking an undisclosed amount of damages from the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant.

As for the lawsuit against the state and the city, Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp told the Arizona Republic that the suit can be thrown out of court because the Demarees didn't properly file a notice of claim.

Arizona law requires parties seeking to sue the government to file a notice of claim 60 days before their lawsuit. The Demarees waited just five days.

Kemp also told the Phoenix newspaper in a report published Monday that the Demarees' lawsuit was filed more than a year after the police began their investigation, and therefore is past the statute of limitations.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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