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Federal Court Awards $3,750,000 in Damages for Sexual Assault by Prison Guards

by Chad Marks

A federal judge in Arizona awarded a former female prisoner $3.75 million in damages after she was sexually assaulted by prison guards.

On June 23, 2017, the victim, identified only as “Jane Doe,” filed a complaint in federal court alleging that guard James R. Toadvine, Jr. sexually abused her while she was held at the Phoenix FPC. In her complaint, the victim claimed that between January 2015 and April 2015, Toadvine engaged in misconduct on several occasions by inappropriately intimidating, coercing, victimizing and assaulting her by forcibly kissing her, touching her buttocks, inserting his finger in her vagina and forcing her hand to touch his penis. Doe further complained that she continued to suffer psychological injuries as a result of the assaults.

Toadvine admitted guilt to a federal charge of abusive sexual conduct with a ward, and was ordered to serve 12 months and one day in prison; the sentence was later modified to time served. He failed to respond to Doe’s lawsuit.

Doe also claimed that another guard, Edward Mendoza, had engaged in sexual misconduct, including inserting his fingers into her vagina, forcing her to perform oral sex and having intercourse with her. Mendoza was prosecuted, pleaded guilty and sentenced to 16 months in federal prison. [See: PLN, Oct. 2017, p.63].

In a May 30, 2018 order, the district court found that Doe had met all the factors set forth in Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470 (9th Cir. 1986) with respect to determining whether default judgment is proper.

The court held that Toadvine “intentionally and unlawfully placed [Doe] in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury and intentionally made offensive physical contact on [Doe’s] person without her consent.”

Accordingly, the district court entered default judgment and awarded damages in the amount of $3,750,000 after Toadvine failed to respond to the complaint. The case remains pending against the remaining defendants. See Doe v. United States, U.S.D.C. (D. Ariz.), Case No. 2:17-cv-01991-PHX-GMS; 2018 U.S. Dist. Lexis 89980. 

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Related legal case

Doe v. United States