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$25,000 Federal Jury Award in Suit over Teenager Raped in Oklahoma Jail

by Matt Clarke

On March 2, 2016, a federal jury awarded $25,000 to a woman who had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by a Tulsa, Oklahoma jailer when she was a minor held at the Tulsa County jail.

LaDona A. Poore was 17 years old when she was incarcerated at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. The year was 2010, and she eventually received a deferred sentence for the assault charge that resulted in her being jailed.

Minor females were kept in isolation in the medical unit where they were, at times, overseen by male guards, including Seth Bowers. After Poore was released, she complained that Bowers had sexually abused her multiple times.

In interviews with a male sheriff’s deputy, she said Bowers had groped her, watched her in the shower and exposed himself to her. The Sheriff’s Department investigation substantiated her claims and recommended prosecution, but the district attorney declined to press charges and Bowers was allowed to resign.

With the assistance of Tulsa attorneys Louis W. Bullock, Patricia W. Bullock, Robert M. Blackmore, Daniel E. Smolen, Donald E. Smolen II, Lauren G. Lambright, Miranda R. Russell and Thomas A. Mortensen, Poore filed a federal civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Bowers and Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz. She alleged Glanz’s policies at the jail had allowed Bowers to have unobserved access to isolated minor females, which violated Oklahoma Jail Standards under OAC § 310:670. In her lawsuit, she claimed she was sexually assaulted and raped, and that the assaults were vaginal and anal.

The jury found in Poore’s favor, awarding her $25,000 in actual damages against Glanz. Before returning a verdict following the eight-day trial, the six jurors deliberated more than nine hours.

Sheriff Glanz has been named as a defendant in at least 21 other civil rights lawsuits. [See: PLN, March 2017, p.42; Oct. 2016, p.46; April 2015, p.46]. One of those cases alleged the rape of another detainee held in the same medical unit at the same time as Poore.

Glanz was forced to resign from office in November 2015 after being indicted by a grand jury on two unrelated misdemeanor corruption charges. He pleaded guilty to one charge and no contest to the other, and received a one-year suspended sentence in July 2016 and was ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution.

Both sides in Poore’s case expected a much higher jury award. The defense tactic of questioning why the more serious allegations were not raised until the lawsuit was filed may have been successful in keeping the award low, despite expert testimony that the way the sheriff’s office conducted the initial interview with Poore – using a male officer in uniform – made it more likely she would withhold information. The defense had argued in opening and closing statements that the lawsuit amounted to a “shakedown based on lies.”

What was clearly proven during the trial was that the jail allowed male guards to routinely view female detainees while they showered, changed clothes or used the toilet in violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (which does not have a private cause of action, so prisoners can’t sue under the Act). Further, the facility had no cameras in the unit where minor females were held and male guards were allowed to supervise them alone, in violation of jail standards that required male guards to be accompanied by a female staff member.

“It’s a huge message to the county that they’re not going to allow girls to be raped in the jail, sexually assaulted in the jail,” said attorney Dan Smolen.

More precisely, the jury’s message was that if female prisoners are sexually abused and then file suit, they risk receiving extremely low awards if they take their case to trial.

On May 26, 2016, the district court taxed costs of $15,663.67 against the defendants, and Poore’s attorney filed a motion seeking $659,159.56 in fees. The defendants have since appealed to the Tenth Circuit, and the judgment was stayed in January 2017 pending the outcome of their appeal. See: Poore v. Glanz, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Okla.), Case No. 4:11-cv-00797-JED-TLW.  


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Related legal case

Poore v. Glanz