No justice for Jane Doe?

Scott Reeder

Imagine being a woman locked in a state prison who is repeatedly raped by a male staff member. 

Recently, a federal jury in Springfield awarded a woman referred to in court documents as "Jane Doe" $19 million for such violations she suffered while incarcerated at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

And how much did Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office initially offer to settle the suit? $10,000.

You read that right. Our state’s chief legal officer put a value on this woman’s victimization somewhere below the price tag of a 15-year-old pickup truck. 

She wasn’t just victimized by her rapist, but also by lawyers representing the state. They pooh-poohed her trauma with a lowball offer. They may well have been betting that the former gymnastics instructor from McHenry County didn’t have the grit to tell a courtroom full of people what had been done to her. 

According to a report by the legal news service Law360, the state attorney general's office offered to settle the lawsuit, at first offering Doe $10,000, and finally $50,000. 

The report didn’t say whether a shrug accompanied the offers. But there might as well have been one. 

A sick sociological calculus often accompanies negotiations such as these. Inmates are the untouchables in the American caste system. Their worth is seen as somehow “less than.” For some, prisoners are viewed as less than free people. For others, less than human. 

But a jury saw things differently. It awarded $8 million in compensatory damages and $11.3 million in punitive damages against Prison Counselor Richard MacLeod, Lead Prison Investigator Todd Sexton and Warden Margaret Burke.

The civil complaint alleges when Doe would go to MacLeod's office to make phone calls to her child, he repeatedly exposed himself to her. On two occasions, he demanded and received oral sex and on two other times had nonconsensual intercourse.

“Nonconsensual intercourse?” Oh, how I hate how lawyers sanitize the most reprehensible acts. How about just calling it what it is? Rape.

No one deserves to be raped. No one. In fact, Illinois law prohibits sex between inmates and prison workers. Such contact is always nonconsensual. Always.

Doe showed up in court and told her story. But McLeod was nowhere to be seen. 

"The actual perpetrator, Richard Macleod, never showed up to defend himself," Doe’s lawyer Nicole Schult said. "So, everything that our client alleged happened was taken as a matter of law to be true. So, the state itself never had a chance or an opportunity to say that none of this happened. No one in the course of this trial has ever said that what happened to my client didn't happen.”

MacLeod left the Illinois Department of Corrections in 2018 but according to his online resume, he’s now a captain in the U.S. Army. 

With substantiated civil allegations like these levied against him, why is he serving in a position of such authority? More importantly, why hasn’t Logan County State's Attorney Bradley Hauge filed criminal charges?

Schult said her client has never been given a reason by the prosecutor. I reached out to Hauge to see if he would give a reason to the folks who elected him. I never received a call back.

When a prosecutor won’t communicate with either victims or those who elected him, one has to ask: Who does he really serve? 

Well, rural Logan County has two state prisons. And correctional officers are important constituents. Could the political clout of the guards have this prosecutor shaking in his wingtips? 

We don’t know. He’s not talking. For that matter, Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office remains mum on the civil lawsuit.

But the jury did speak: loud and clear.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].