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Jury Awards $2 Million to Nurse in Sexual Harassment Case against Missouri Prison Officials

by Jo Ellen Nott

On December 27, 2022, in Missouri’s 19th Circuit Court, Judge Jon Beetem ordered the state Department of Corrections (DOC) to pay $2 million in punitive damages to a former nurse in a sexual harassment case she brought against DOC and three of it guards, plus its privately contracted healthcare provider, Corizon LLC, and two of its employees. 

Nurse Kathleen Newman was working for Corizon in the infirmary at Jefferson City Correctional Center in January 2017 when guard Michael Redmon told her he had been constructing a “capture room.” Redmon had previously tried to date the nurse, but she did not accept his invitations. When Newman asked about the “capture room,” Redmond responded that it was the place where he would take her, drug her, and rape her. Redmon told Newman, “Every girl wants to be roofied,” adding that “most girls have rape fantasies.” Sgt. James McKee, the other guard present in the infirmary, laughed at Redmon’s comments and for a time blocked the only exit that Newman might use, she said. 

Newman reported the incident to her superiors but found no relief. Instead, other employees harassed her, she claimed – a guard, Lt. Tom Eslahi, even “smacked her on the bottom with his keys,” according to the complaint she later filed. Her attorney, Andy Hirth, later recounted further harassment she endured after making the report: “There were daily ‘rape jokes’ from other [guards] and retaliation by the warden and other jail personnel.”  According to the filing that began the case, Redmon told the nurse that he knew “where she lived and how easy it is to find out where someone lives.” 

Newman filed a Charge of Discrimination in April 2017 and then resigned from her job. Represented by attorney Hirth of TGH Litigation LLC in Columbia, she filed suit on July 17, 2017, alleging she was subjected to sexual harassment, sex discrimination, retaliation, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Before the start of the jury trial on November 7, 2022, Newman reportedly resolved her claims against Corizon and its staffers; no dollar figure was released for that settlement. The trial on Newman’s remaining claims lasted nine days. After resting her case on November 16, 2022, the jury returned its unanimous verdict two days later, awarding her $150,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. Court costs were also taxed to Defendants. Allegations against the three guards were dismissed. See: Newman v. Mo. Dep’t of Corr., Mo. 19th Cir. (Cole Cty.), Case No. 17AC-CC00364.

Additional sources:  KMIZ, Missouri Independent, Nurse 

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