Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$900,000 Settlement in Illinois Jail Guard’s Sexual Assault of Juvenile

Another case of sexual abuse upon a minor by a custodial person has hit the taxpayer’s coffers. This time, a guard at Illinois’ St. Clair County juvenile custody center sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy, causing the County to settle the boy’s civil rights and negligent hiring claim of $900,000, on February 2, 2007.

The boy was placed in the juvenile center on May 11, 2005. During his stay there, he was “touched inappropriately” several times by guard Thomas O’Donnell Jr., 53. After his release from custody, the boy told his mother about the assaults.

O’Donnell confessed to the assault on tape. He was under indictment for sexually assaulting the boy when the county settled. Previous behavior by O’Donnell exhibited behavioral problems. “There is no question in my mind that he should have been fired long before the abuse involving my client was allowed to occur,” said the boy’s attorney, Amy Collignon Gunn.

Political connections protected O’Donnell, who is the son of Thomas O’Donnell, Sr., a former St. Clair County circuit judge. “It was because of his linkage to the judicial system,” said Larry “L.D.” Ward, who worked with O’Donnell, Jr. at the juvenile center for four years.

After O’Donnell transported a juvenile from the center on September 22, 2001, to the Belleville Memorial Hospital, he verbally abused the boy and kicked his bed “in frustration, causing alarm to the extent that (the Department of Children and Family Services) as well as the Belleville police were called.” While it is unclear what causd O’Donnell’s frustration, subsequent events place sexual frustration as a possibility.

No action other than taking O’Donnell off of transport duty occurred.
“Based on your past integrity and professionalism, I take your word that the above violations will not take place again,” wrote Ron Schaefer, former director of the county court services and probation department, in a memo concerning the 2001 incident.

O’Donnell’s political connections continued to serve him well even after the county settled the victim’s suit for $900,000.00. On April 8, 2008, he pleaded guilty to official misconduct, custodial sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse. He was sentenced to 48 months probation.

O’Donnell is not the only guard who was sexually frustrated at the juvenile center and sought out juveniles for satisfaction. A lawsuit filed by two 17-year-old girls alleged guard Richard Jenkins sexually abused them while held at the center. PLN will report any settlement or verdict in that action. See: C.P. v. O’Donnell, USDC. S.D. Illinois, Case No. 3:05-cv-784-MJR-PMF.

Additional Source: Belleville News-Democrat

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

C.P. v. O’Donnell