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$10,000 Verdict in Sexual Assault by Virginia Guard

On October 20, 2008, a Virginia federal jury awarded a former Pittsylvania County Jail prisoner $10,000 in a lawsuit that claimed a guard had “sexually molested, harassed, and assaulted” her. The suit alleged that jail guard Hank Hazelwood violated Sheril Ann Carr’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while she was a prisoner in 2006.

Carr testified that there were other incidents, but they were dropped from the lawsuit due to the statute of limita-tions. The issue at trial concerned how Hazelwood, a sergeant, took Carr into an office to make a telephone call. As she used the phone, Hazelwood groped her so forcefully that she later urinated blood. Another woman’s videotaped deposition was admitted at trial. She testified to a similar incident involving Hazelwood.

Both women’s complaints were dismissed by Sheriff’s investigators because they could not be substantiated. Carr studied the law and filed her § 1983 complaint pro se; she was later helped by a new program launched by the federal courts and the University of Virginia School of Law. The program uses law students to assist attorneys who agree to take cases pro bono.

Prior to trial, the district court had adopted a magistrate’s recommendation to deny Hazelwood’s motion for summary judgment, finding the defendants had waived the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust and Carr had in fact exhausted her available administrative remedies. See: Carr v. Hazelwood, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88672 (W.D. Va., Nov. 3, 2008).
Taking only 40 minutes, the jury found for Carr despite Hazelwood’s testimony that he did not molest her. Following the jury’s $10,000 verdict, Carr’s counsel moved for attorney fees and was awarded $15,000 on December 8, 2008. Carr was represented by George P. Sibley III and Harry M. Johnson III of the Hunton & Williams, LLP law firm. See: Carr v. Hazelwood, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Va.), Case No. 7:07-cv-00001.

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Related legal case

Carr v. Hazelwood