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Illinois Guard Terminated for Sex with Prisoners; Wrongful Termination Suit Dismissed

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an Illinois African-American guard’s wrongful termination action.

In March or April 2003, Nicole Burns, a female detainee at the Cook County, Illinois jail reported that guards were engaging in sexual intercourse with her and several other detainees. Detectives eventually identified about 20 male guards, half of whom were African-American, as suspects of interest.

Detainee Aurora Acuna reported “that she and her cell mate, Portia Warrington, had a sexual encounter with” African American guard Iyare Egonmwan. “Warrington was interviewed and confirmed Acuna’s story. Acuna also said that Egonmwan agreed to pay her for sexual favors and deliver the money to her brother,” Gonzalo, who reported “that, on two occasions, Egonmwan drove to his house to deliver money for Acuna.”

On July 30, 2003, Egonmwan, who had worked at the jail since 1999, was de-deputized and he was arrested on felony custodial sexual misconduct charges on August 13, 2003. “Warrington and Acuna testified” at an employment hearing “regarding their sexual contact with Egonmwan. Acuna’s brother testified about receiving money from Egonmwan.” He was suspended on August 22, 2003 and was terminated on August 25, 2003. He did not appeal the decision.

“Warrington and the Acuna siblings” testified during a bench trial “consistent with their earlier statements….Despite this evidence, Egonmwan was acquitted in August 2004.” The “judge found no corroboration for the detainees’ testimony, which he discounted because they had ‘motivations to lie.’ He also found Gonzalo Acuna’s testimony incredible.”

Egonmwan sued his former employer for race and gender discrimination and retaliation. After the district court granted Defendants summary judgment, Egonmwan appealed and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.

The court found that summary judgment was appropriate on the race and gender discrimination claims because Egonmwan failed to show a discriminatory motivation. Egonmwan “expressly waives his right to appeal the district court’s grant of summary judgment on his First Amendment retaliation claim.” The court found that “Egonmwan—one of many suspects in a wide-ranging investigation of custodial sexual misconduct—was terminated and prosecuted because of corroborated evidence of wrongdoing. As a result, his claims cannot move forward.” See: Egonmwan v. Cook County Sheriff’s Dept. 602 F.3d 845 (7th Cir. 2010).

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Related legal case

Egonmwan v. Cook County Sheriff’s Dept.