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Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Inmate Wins 1.3 Million in Rape Case

The Denver Post

A female inmate sexually assaulted by a Colorado Department of Corrections sergeant was awarded $1.3 million Wednesday by a federal judge who said he hoped the damages would be a deterrent to other correctional officers.

"The court recognizes that punitive damages awards often are overinflated but believes an award of this magnitude is justified under the disturbing circumstances of this case," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge David M. Ebel in his opinion issued late Wednesday.

". . . The right to be safe from sexual assault and rape by one of her guards turned out to be worth no more than the paper upon which (the regulation) was printed," he wrote.

Ebel also said that based on testimony from other inmates who corroborated the victim's experience, he believes the DOC does not effectively enforce a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse of inmates. He said that is one reason he set the damages so high.

The lawsuit was filed in 2008 against former Sgt. LeShawn Terrell by a female inmate serving time at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility. The Denver Post is withholding her name because she is a victim of sexual assault.

The inmate also sued the Department of Corrections and settled for $250,000 out of court, her attorney, Mari Newman, said.

The 34-year-old inmate is serving a four-year sentence on drug, burglary and escape charges and won't be eligible for parole until October, according to court records.

Her lawsuit accused Terrell of sexually assaulting her during a five-month period culminating in an October 2006 rape.

Terrell pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful sexual contact and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

The judge also criticized that sentence as too short.

The $1.3 million includes $354,070 in compensatory damages for the victim's medical costs and emotional suffering and $1 million in punitive damages against Terrell.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, I would like to see more monetary damages awarded rather than prison sentences -- not only in cases like this, but in many other criminal cases. Our "make 'em pay" attitudes could and should be satisfied with monetary penalties, victim compensation, restorative justice, community service and more rather than warehousing people at great expense to taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

60 days in jail??!!?!? Why isn't this guard serving two-years to life like others who have sentenced for lesser "sexual" assault convictions? It only takes an accusation by a woman that she said "no" several weeks or months ago and her husband/boyfriend/father of her child or children had sex with her anyway for a man to be accused of sexual assault. No bruises, no red marks on her skin, no evidence of any sort -- just her word against his -- and he can be charged with sexual assault in Colorado. No man is this state is safe when the police will arrest on a charge like that!

This state is out of control! Most felony convictions for "sexual" assault -- even unproven, undocumented sexual assault charges where a defendant accepts a plea bargain -- end with a sentence of two to life! Then the inmate can't get into the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) for a year or more; the current waiting list for Phase I is about four years. Then the inmate must complete Phase II of the SOTP before he is eligible for parole. Typically, the inmate will spend about 10 years in prison before the Parole Board turns him down for the first time on a "two to life" sentence. An inmate will have to meet the Parole Board several times before he'll be released (if he is EVER released) to face lifetime registration and supervision as a sex offender! And this guard, in a position of trust, raped a female inmate and got a MISDEMEANOR conviction and a 60-day sentence!?! This is an outrage and another example of Colorado's out-of-control "justice" system. This is sick!!

Anonymous said...