A former Harrison County sheriff’s deputy accused of raping a woman during a transport in March has denied allegations or “respectfully asserted the Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent” in response to a civil rights lawsuit.
In a separate response filed Aug. 20, Harrison County indicated that the deputy “admits that a sexual act occurred, but claims it was consensual.”
The plaintiff, listed as “Jane Doe,” reported she was raped by former transport officer Roger “Chilly” Valentine, 55, of Marshall on March 22 while he was transporting her from the Linda Woodman State Jail in Coryell County to the jail in Marshall.
The woman filed a lawsuit against Valentine, Harrison County and the Sheriff’s Association of Texas in July in Marshall’s federal court. Her civil suit accuses the county of failing to adequately train and supervise jail employees, including Valentine, and failing to conduct adequate screening when Valentine was hired.
The plaintiff, a Dallas County resident, is being represented by attorneys Timothy Dortch and Maryssa Simpson of the Potts Law Firm LLP in Dallas.
She is also represented by Simpson’s sister, Michelle Simpson Tuegel of the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm in Dallas, who is known for her representation of former U.S. national team and Olympic gymnasts and college athletes sexually abused by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Harrison County and the Sheriff’s Association of Texas are both being represented by Flowers Davis, LLP, of Tyler. Judge Rodney Gilstrap is presiding over the civil rights case.
The reported victim is demanding a jury trial and seeking $2 million in damages in the case.
Tuegel said the case is especially disturbing since Valentine was already under investigation for sexual misconduct when he resigned from Gregg County Sheriff’s Office prior to his employment with Harrison. Furthermore, she said, the transport process that was exercised that day — sending only one transport officer — is not in line with the typical procedure of transporting people in custody.
The lawsuit blames the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas for failing to take any action to investigate Valentine’s sexual misconduct that arose from the Gregg County prior to his employment with Harrison.
“In addition to those reasons stated above, Defendants negligently failed to protect Plaintiff, and other female inmates, from the unwanted assault by Defendant Valentine despite the knowledge of previous sexually inappropriate behavior, and in spite of common national jail standards of requiring at least two officers during any transport of inmates for officer safety,” the lawsuit argues.
In his response to the allegations, Valentine maintained his right to remain silent on the plaintiff’s claims that he handcuffed and shackled her inappropriately by standing closely behind her, which resulted in him rubbing the front of his body up against her back and buttocks.
He further denied continuing to make sexual advances to the plaintiff during the first part of the drive and denied opting to choose a gas station with no surveillance cameras to let her use the restroom.
Valentine asserted his right to remain silent on the accusation that he followed the plaintiff into the gas station’s restroom, cornered her into a stall, exposed himself to her and proceeded to rape her.
He denied that he continued making sexually abusive and harassing remarks to the plaintiff during the rest of the duration of their journey.
Valentine stated his right to remain silent on the claim that special arrangements were made by him to transport the plaintiff alone during the nearly five-hour drive, which gave rise to this complaint.
In regard to damages, Valentine denies that the reported victim is entitled to damages, “and respectfully asserts his Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent as to any assertion of a sexual assault” by him. He also denied that she is entitled to attorney fees. Valentine is also requesting a trial by jury and maintains that he is entitled to qualified and official immunity.
“Defendant denies that he, in any way, acted with malice, consciously disregarded and/or was deliberately indifferent to the rights of the plaintiff,” his response states.
Harrison County Response
Harrison County filed both a motion to dismiss itself from the lawsuit and also filed an answer in response to the suit.
Under grounds for dismissal, the county’s attorneys noted that the claims against the county should be dismissed because “plaintiff does not point to a formal written policy of the county and fails to offer specific, non-conclusory, factual allegations of a widespread persistent practice sufficient to constitute a de facto policy of the sheriff for the purposes of: Plaintiff fails to allege specific facts that, if true, would show deliberate indifference on the part of the Sheriff, as policymaker; and Plaintiff fails to plead specific facts which, if true, would be sufficient to show that a policy of the Sheriff caused a violation of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
In its conditional answer to the allegations against the county, the governmental entity confirmed that Valentine was the only transport officer when he transported the plaintiff from the state jail to Harrison County. They confirmed that she did report the sexual assault on the day she was booked into the jail and that sheriff’s employees took her statement.
Regarding the claims that Valentine was under investigation from at least one other instance of sexual misconduct when he resigned from Gregg County Jail, and continued to work for Harrison County Sheriff’s Office after no further investigation was launched into his conduct, the county responded that it admits that Valentine was investigated for sexual harassment type behavior in the workplace while working for Gregg County and that he resigned, but denies the allegation that he continued to work for the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, “because he was not working for Harrison County. The county further denies that it had knowledge of sexual harassment by Valentine at the time Valentine was hired by Harrison County.
“Defendant (Harrison County) denies the allegation that it negligently failed to protect plaintiff and other females from sexual assault and further denies knowledge that Defendant Valentine was ever alleged to have committed sexual assault against other females,” the response states.
The county indicated that it did not have a policy that two individuals must be present during all transfers and admits that no policy prevented male transport officers from transporting women. The county further denied that it acted in any way pertaining to this matter, because the alleged conduct by Valentine was not pursuant to or consistent with county policy.
The county also denies that the constitutional violations in this case were the direct result of inadequate training and supervision of Harrison County.
“Defendant denies the allegations that there was inadequate training and supervision, denies that any different training or supervision would have prevented the assault on the plaintiff and further denies, on information and belief, that any other women in the Harrison County Jail were harmed by Valentine,” the response stated.
The county further denied the accusation that that a failure to train and supervise employees was a direct cause, and moving force, of the constitutional deprivations suffered by the plaintiff, which led to her reported sexual assault.
Harrison County also contended that “special arrangements” were not made by Valentine with other officers and supervisors so that he would be the sole transporting officer of female inmates during lengthy transports.
The county further stated that there was an inappropriate sexual act between Valentine and the plaintiff, but denies that any constitutional violation was caused in any way by Harrison County.
Regarding the claim that the defendants had a duty to prevent sexual assault, abuse and molestation on their premises, Harrison County agrees to the extent that it has a duty to prevent sexual assault on its premises but denies that it is always possible and further contends that the inappropriate sexual act did not occur on the county’s premises.
The county further denied that it allowed Valentine to be in a position where he could sexually assault and/or abuse women such as the plaintiff. The county contends that it is not liable for the damages that the reported victim seeks because it is entitled to sovereign immunity.
The county further argued that it is not liable to plaintiff because any constitutional violation was not caused by the official policy of Harrison County.
Sheriff’s Association Response
The Sheriff’s Association of Texas contends in an Aug. 22 response that it does not have authority, jurisdiction or a duty to investigate Valentine; to investigate, monitor, train or supervise Valentine; and investigate complaints against employees, subordinates or representatives of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office because it is a nonprofit organization, not a law enforcement agency. The association also denies the allegation that it failed to warn plaintiff about prior complaints regarding Valentine.
“Even if Defendant (the association) had knowledge of allegations made against Valentine in the past, any inappropriate sexual act between Valentine and plaintiff occurred outside of the presence of Defendant (the association), so no warning could have been given,” the association argues.
Like Harrison County, the Association contends that it is not liable for damages sought by the plaintiff in the case.
The former deputy resigned from his position following an investigation that was launched due to the inmate’s outcry.
Valentine currently has a criminal case pending in Navarro County, where the incident took place. He was arrested by Harrison County officials on March 27 on a Navarro County warrant for violating the civil rights of a person in custody by engaging in sexual activity.
He is out of jail on bonds totaling $200,000.