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California Jury Awards $1 Million in Jail Rape

On November 20, 2001, a Los Angeles county jury returned a $1 million verdict to 39 year-old Jay Reynolds, a former jail detainee who was raped by his cellmates after a judge ordered his release from jail. Reynolds was arrested in March 1999, when a traffic stop by police showed a South Dakota warrant for failing to pay child support. On March 17, 1999, at 11:30 AM, a judge ordered Reynolds released from jail after South Dakota officials declined to extradite him.

Despite the judge's release order, Reynolds was returned to the Los Angeles county jail and later that same night he was beaten and raped by his two cellmates. After the attack, Reynolds says he was threatened and forced to give his attackers a written statement saying the rape was "voluntary." The two attackers were later convicted of raping and assaulting Reynolds.

Reynolds filed suit in Los Angeles county superior court and a jury duly awarded him $1 million in damages against jail officials and the county. County counsel said they would appeal the verdict. [A separate class action lawsuit was also settled over the Los Angeles sheriff's policy of detaining prisoners, like Reynolds, who had been ordered released by the courts. PLN will report that settlement in detail when it is unsealed by the courts.]

Louis Aguilar, the county's lawyer, dismissed the verdict, saying "This was a very violent assault. It generated a lot of sympathy on the part of the jurors. It was a sympathy verdict."

Reynolds' attorney, Dennis Elber, saw things differently. "What the county did was wrong. Jay should never have had to go through that rape, or the process afterwards," Elber said.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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