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$19.3 Million Awarded to Former Illinois Prisoner Repeatedly Sexually Assaulted by Prison Counselor

by Matt Clarke

On September 22, 2023, a jury in federal court for the Central District of Illinois awarded a total of $19.3 million to a former state prisoner who was repeatedly sexually assaulted by a counselor with the state Department of Corrections (DOC).

Identified as “Jane Doe,” the prisoner—a gymnastics instructor with a young daughter—started serving a sentence at Logan Correctional Center (LCC) in 2015. In August 2016, Richard MacLeod was assigned as Doe’s counselor. To receive her court-­ordered biweekly phone call with her child, Doe needed to visit MacLeod. She was also scheduled for multiple rehabilitation program classes, two of which MacLeod taught.

MacLeod asked if he could summon Doe to his office to make the call without anyone else knowing. Doe agreed and visited secretly. After making the call, MacLeod kissed her. Within a month, he progressed to vaginal intercourse in one of the classrooms where he taught. That happened at least three times; MacLeod also made her perform oral sex on him at least twice between August 2016 and April 2017. Several times while she was in his office and on the phone with her daughter, he took out his penis and masturbated in front of her.

MacLeod threatened harsh punishment should Doe report the abuse. He claimed to have a close personal relationship with Todd Sexton, an Internal Affairs lieutenant at LCC, shielding him from discipline for abusing Doe.

In December 2016, a prisoner reported that Doe had revealed her sexual relationship with MacLeod. Sexton investigated the allegation by interviewing Doe and asking whether she had anything she wanted to talk about. But he never asked directly about MacLeod, nor did Doe volunteer any information, fearing the relationship between the two DOC employees. Meanwhile Sexton reported the allegations to Warden Margaret Burke, who had him collect more evidence.

Sexton tried hiding out a few times in hopes of catching MacLeod with Doe, but he failed. He did not take other basic investigatory steps such as interviewing MacLeod, checking his scheduling logs, or attempting to collect physical evidence.

On August 4, 2017, Doe reported the abuse to Sexton and was transferred the same day to another prison where she was no longer able to call her daughter nor continue any rehabilitation programs. Over the LCC assistant warden’s objection, MacLeod was transferred into the prison’s administration, where he continued working another 13 months before being placed on paid administrative leave. He earned over $97,500 plus benefits in 2019.

With the assistance of Chicago attorneys Alan Mills, Sarah Blair and Nichole Rae Schutt of the Uptown People’s Law Center; Brittany Cramer, Christina Elaine Sharkey, Claire Elizabeth Stephens, Diego Jorge Martinez-­Krippner, Nick Franklin Wasdin, Scott W. Fowkes and Shannon Lee Gonyou of Kirkland and Ellis LLP; as well as Elizabeth N. Mazur of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick and Dym Ltd., Doe filed a federal civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against MacLeod, Burke and Sexton. Numerous other DOC officials were also named but dismissed on March 29, 2023, due to lack of personal knowledge or involvement in the complained-­of actions. See: Doe v. MacLeod, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53838 (C.D. Ill.).

The lawsuit noted that Logan was converted from a men’s prison to a women’s prison but retained its mostly male staff, with numerous complaints and rumors of staff-­on-­prisoner sexual assault, some substantiated. Therefore, as soon as the other prisoner reported that MacLeod was having sex with Doe, steps should have been taken to keep him away from her. Instead, Sexton’s incompetent and incomplete “investigation” let MacLeod continue sexually assaulting Doe.

Perhaps attempting to avoid criminal charges, MacLeod neither contested the allegation nor appeared in court. The Court then entered default judgment against him, finding him liable for the sexual assaults. Jurors next heard that prisoners are incapable of giving consent under state law, so whether Doe “consented” or not was irrelevant. They then found both Burke and Sexton liable, awarding Doe $8,000,000 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded punitive damages of $10,000,000 against MacLeod, $500,000 against Burke and $800,000 against Sexton. See: Doe v. McLeod, Case no. 3:18-­cv-­03191-­SEM-­KLM (C.D. Ill).

“We have heard rumors of this kind of rampant sexual abuse happening at Logan since it became a women’s facility,” Schutt said. “It is really difficult for women in custody to report sexual assault because of retaliation, and oftentimes, even actual punishments with segregation.”

Another “Jane Doe” testified at trial that she was treated in a similar way by MacLeod but cowed from reporting it by fear of retaliation. Schutt warned that the culture at Logan remains unchanged with staff sexual assaults and fear of retaliation still common.

“I would like to say that the things at Logan have changed,” she said. “But we still see a lot of women at Logan in our office and I know that it hasn’t changed, that it’s still happening.”   


Additional source: Illinois Times

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Doe v. MacLeod

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