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Jail’s Failure to Protect Juvenile from Sexual Assault Supports $25,000 Verdict

by David Reutter

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a $25,000 verdict in a civil rights action alleging the sheriff in Tulsa County, Oklahoma was deliberately indifferent to conditions that resulted in a 17-year-old prisoner being repeatedly sexually assaulted by a guard.

The lawsuit concerned events that occurred between January and April 2010 while Ladona A. Poore, then 17, was held in a medical cell at the Tulsa County Jail. There were no surveillance cameras, and a curtain obscured Poore’s cell from the nurses’ station.

Poore testified that guard Seth Bowers began groping her shortly after her arrival, and touched her inappropriately more than 50 times. He then began watching her shower and would laugh at her as he asked if she was done. Later, Bowers exposed himself to Poore and demanded oral sex. He engaged in oral sex with Poore approximately 10 times and had sexual intercourse about five times. Poore did not report the abuse because Bowers convinced her they would both face consequences if she reported him. [See: PLN, May 2017, p.60].

After Poore was released, jail officials received a report about possible misconduct by Bowers. A “material witness” told an investigator that Bowers would enter Poore’s cell and stay there from five to 20 minutes at a time. The witness said another guard knew about Bowers’ misconduct, and that guard reluctantly admitted he was aware of inappropriate sexual contact between Bowers and female prisoners. Bowers eventually resigned but faced no criminal charges.

Poore filed suit in federal court, alleging the jail provided inadequate housing, staffing and supervision in the area where juvenile female prisoners were held. Then-Sheriff Stanley Glanz, who was responsible for overseeing the jail’s operation, was sued in his official capacity.

At trial, Glanz admitted that women and girls are disproportionately victims of sexual abuse, and that minors housed with adults are at higher risk. He agreed that eliminating “blind spots” is key to effective supervision and that it was “critical” for staff to know they were being monitored to prevent misconduct. While few assaults occurred in areas at the jail with “direct supervision,” Poore and other juveniles were not placed in a direct supervision location.

The jail had a policy that prevented male guards from entering a female prisoner’s cell alone, but Glanz admitted the policy was disregarded. He also acknowledged being aware that a male nurse had previously watched a female juvenile in the shower, but had made no changes in policies or procedures.

In an unpublished February 5, 2018 decision, the Tenth Circuit held that these facts supported the jury’s $25,000 verdict, and affirmed the judgment.

“We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the jury’s conclusions that Glanz caused a violation of Poore’s constitutional rights and that he acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind,” the appellate court wrote. “We further conclude that the contours of the constitutional right at issue were sufficiently clear that Glanz is not entitled to qualified immunity.” See: Poore v. Glanz, 724 Fed.Appx. 635 (10th Cir. 2018).

In addition to the jury award, the district court assessed $15,663.67 in costs against Sheriff Glanz, and Poore’s attorneys are seeking $659,159.56 in fees. The defendants argued that because Poore had been re-arrested and was incarcerated when her lawsuit was filed, the Prison Litigation Reform Act’s cap on attorney fees was applicable – which would cap the fees at 150 percent of the jury award. A magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation in favor of the defendants, and the court’s ruling on Poore’s motion for attorney fees remains pending.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Glanz resigned; he later pleaded guilty to an unrelated misdemeanor charge and no contest to another misdemeanor in July 2016. He was placed on probation for one year and ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution for willful violation of the law and refusal to perform an official duty. 

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Related legal case

Poore v. Glanz