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$375,000 Settlement for Washington Female Juvenile Detainee Raped by Guard

On July 7, 2011, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) agreed to a $375,000 settlement in a lawsuit that alleged a guard had raped a female detainee at the Echo Glen Children’s Center.

The detainee, Brittney Brown, was 19 at the time she was sexually assaulted in her cell. Robert Heath Fox, 38, a temporary guard at the facility, had exhibited inappropriate conduct prior to the incident, the lawsuit contended. He entered Brown’s cell on May 6, 2008, handed her an energy drink, then left; he returned several minutes later, stripped her naked and raped her.

“It was a kind of ugly, brutal, disgusting rape,” said Jack Connelly, one of Brown’s attorneys. “This case is particularly important because of the incredible imbalance of power between a male guard and a young, teenage female inmate.”

Fox pleaded guilty to first-degree custodial sexual misconduct in King County Superior Court in March 2009, and received an eight-month jail sentence.

“A criminal act was inflicted upon this resident by a depraved individual more than three years ago, and we deeply regret that it took place,” said John Clayton, DSHS Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration Assistant Secretary.

Brown’s attorneys argued that Fox was not qualified for his position at Echo Glen and that there were other claims of improper conduct involving female detainees. They also said there were inadequate protections for prisoners at the facility. Security cameras have been installed since the incident, the pattern of nighttime staff rounds were changed and staff assessments were increased.

Brown had been in trouble for most of her life. She was exposed to drug use at the age of 11 and was convicted of theft, burglary and forgery. All were related to her drug addiction and caused her to be in and out of juvenile detention centers. She had started to get her life together at Echo Glen, as demonstrated by earning her GED and getting along with staff – until she was sexually assaulted by Fox.

The rape was a “really traumatic experience for her,” said Micah LeBank, another of Brown’s lawyers. “Our hope is that [the] money can be used to help her get back to a normal life.” See: B.B. v. Echo Glen Children’s Center, King County Superior Court (WA), Case No. 09-2-28180-7.

Sources: Seattle Times, The Stranger,

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Related legal case

B.B. v. Echo Glen Children’s Center