A woman who accused former Harrison County sheriff’s deputy, Roger “Chilly” Valentine, of raping her during a transport in March has filed a civil rights lawsuit — in Marshall’s federal court — against the former employee as well as Harrison County and the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday, July 25, by the alleged victim, who is listed as “Jane Doe” in the complaint. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Chief Judge, Rodney Gilstrap, is presiding over the case.
The plaintiff, a Dallas County resident, is being represented by attorneys Timothy Dortch and Maryssa Simpson of the Potts Law Firm LLP in Dallas (www.potts-law.com).
She is also represented by Simpson’s sister, Michelle Simpson Tuegel of the Simpson Tuegel Law Firm in Dallas, who is renowned for her representation of former U.S. national team and Olympic gymnasts and college athletes, who were sexually abused by former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. The lawsuit against MSU resulted in a $500 million global settlement.
“I represent hundreds of survivors and clergy abuse survivors in the United States,” Tuegel told the News Messenger in a telephone interview Tuesday.” That’s what I do every day is have these really heavy conversations with them.
“(With) this client,” she said of the case against the former Harrison County sheriff’s deputy, “this act of violence has really had a terrible impact in her life and has caused her a lot of trauma.
“And on top of her own life and things she has to deal with, she has to now deal with this,” said Tuegel.
Tuegel said society tends to think that money is a big motivation in filing such lawsuits, but the first thing survivors who seek her help always tell her is that they don’t want anyone else to experience what could have been preventable.
“This Jane Doe, who doesn’t want to be identified at this point, feels the same way — that this was preventable,” said Tuegel.
The attorney 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.
“This information that was released (by Longview News Journal) was publicly accessible records that this officer had been in trouble before and that he has a history of problems,” said Tuegel. “And that information that was easily accessible by journalists should’ve been also accessible to the county that chose to employ him and send him out alone with this female without anyone else.”
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.
“One difference in this case (compared to Tuegel’s other survivor cases) is I worry that the public might look at this case and have less compassion for her (since she was incarcerated),” said Tuegel. “But my response to that is: part of her sentence was not to be sexually assaulted.
“And even people in custody don’t deserve that sort of treatment,” she said.
Further, policy and procedures are supposed to be in place to prevent such action from happening, the attorney said. Thus, the plaintiff’s counsel is allowed some action under the Civil Rights Cause of Action to file a complaint in response to the alleged sexual assault, failure to supervise, failure to train and violation of bodily integrity for a person in custody.
“We also alleged some counts of negligence,” said Tuegel.
“It’s our client’s hope that other women don’t have to be exposed and have what happened to her happen to them; and that the defendants would own up to their mistakes and take responsibility for it,” the attorney said.
She additionally hopes that the defendants would compensate her client for the pain and suffering she’s endured, too, as survivors usually undergo years of counseling to help them through.
“It’s specialized counseling,” Tuegel said, expounding it’s the type of counseling that certain insurance does not pay for.
“It was preventable and it wasn’t anything that was her fault,” the attorney said.
The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial and seeking $2 million in damages in the case. Harrison County Judge Chad Sims confirmed that he was served with the county’s summons Tuesday, but couldn’t comment on litigation.
Court documents show that Valentine was sent his summons last week. All defendants have 60 days upon receipt of the summons to file a response to the complaint.
According to the lawsuit, on March 22, Valentine, 53, allegedly assaulted the plaintiff while on duty, transporting her from the Linda Woodman State Jail to the Harrison County Jail in Marshall.
The lawsuit notes that the state jail, located in Coryell County released the plaintiff into the custody of a lone, male transport officer, identified as Valentine, for the approximately four-and-a-half hour trip. The lawsuit goes on to allege that Valentine didn’t follow proper procedure when handcuffing her for transport.
“Plaintiff is roughly 5’5, and Defendant Valentine stood much taller than Plaintiff and is heavyset. Plaintiff was handcuffed and placed in the rear of the transport van,” the lawsuit states. “Notably, Defendant Valentine stood closely behind Plaintiff to handcuff and shackle her, which is not protocol and resulted in Defendant Valentine rubbing the front of his body up against Plaintiff’s back and buttocks.
“A female guard or employee of Linda Woodman State Jail was present when Defendant handcuffed and shackled Plaintiff inappropriately,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit continues, describing the ride to Harrison County as an uncomfortable one with several sexual comments and advances made by the former deputy. According to the lawsuit, the sexual assault of the victim took place after she asked the deputy if they could stop for a restroom break.
“When Plaintiff asked to use the restroom on the multiple hour drive, Defendant Valentine stopped at a gas station/convenience store in Corsicana that he knew to have no surveillance cameras,” the lawsuit states. “Directly across the street was a larger gas station, which Defendant Valentine initially pulled into, but he then changed course and chose the smaller station that was not as heavily populated and which did not have surveillance.”
The lawsuit alleges that Valentine followed the inmate into the gas station restroom.
“Plaintiff could not object to the officer’s actions, and further assumed he came into the restroom with her in order to remove her shackles so that she could use the restroom without falling,” the lawsuit states. “However, once in the restroom, Defendant Valentine cornered Plaintiff into a stall, and Plaintiff realized Defendant Valentine had opened his pants and exposed himself to her. Defendant Valentine then forced Plaintiff to turn around and proceeded to rape her. Plaintiff was shackled for the duration of the rape.
“Defendant Valentine then removed Plaintiff’s handcuffs, left, washed his hands, and as she exited the restroom, he handcuffed her again and returned her to the vehicle,” the lawsuit indicates.
The inmate said she was in continual fear for the remainder of the drive as Valentine continued the journey, while proceeding to make sexually abusive and harassing remarks.
The plaintiff immediately reported the allegation to a sergeant after arriving to the county jail about 2 p.m. She was taken to a nurse’s office and then to Christus Mother Frances Hospital to be examined.
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.
“According to records obtained from Gregg County Jail, supervisors were investigating claims from at least one female employee that Roger ‘Chilly’ Valentine asked her to touch his groin area ‘inappropriately and without her consent’ and that he grabbed her buttocks in February 2013 while on a jail elevator,” the lawsuit states. “Prior to the outcome of that investigation, he submitted a one-sentence resignation to supervisors. Valentine continued to work for Harrison County Sheriffs’ Office, after no further investigation was launched into his misconduct.
“Upon information and belief, the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas failed to take any action to investigate Defendant Valentine’s sexual misconduct,” the lawsuit states.
“Defendant Harrison County also failed to adequately screen potential hires or conduct background checks to ensure the safety of inmates,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further argues that the defendants ignored their own policies and procedures regarding having two officers conduct transports.
“Defendant Valentine, as well as Defendant Harrison County, wholly failed to ensure national standard jail policies were adhered to and failed to provide any safeguards to prevent incidents of sexual assault and harm against inmates,” the lawsuit contends. “Specifically, Defendants did not require at least two officers to be present during all transports, especially those of considerable duration and length; did not require at least one female officer to be present during female inmate transfers; nor did Defendants require safeguards such as video cameras within transport vans during single officer transports, mileage checks, or communications with other officers or supervisors, either en route or upon final destination, to ensure officers upheld their duties as prescribed by law.”
“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.
The lawsuit goes on to indicate that the Sheriff’s Association of Texas further failed to investigate, warn of, or provide any safeguards against sexual misconduct and perpetrators of same being passed through the sheriff’s offices of this state.
“Defendants’ failures led directly to Plaintiff’s assault, and caused her physical pain and injury as well as emotional and mental anguish and trauma,” the lawsuit states.
As a result of the actions, the plaintiff said she has suffered and continues to suffer pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, fright, grief, and humiliation, and enjoyment of life.
Additionally, she said she has sustained and will continue to sustain loss of earnings and earning capacity; and has required and will continue to require treatment, therapy, counseling, and hospitalization to address the mental anguish and despair which defendants’ conduct caused.
Further, “as a result of Defendant Valentine’s malicious physical abuse, unconscionable and egregious abuse of power, and sexual assault as set forth above, he deprived Plaintiff of her constitutional rights in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States,” the lawsuit contends. “The sexual assault against Plaintiff was an unreasonable physical seizure of Plaintiff under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In the alternative, the assault by Defendant Valentine was a violation of Plaintiff’s due process rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution by violating her rights to bodily integrity.”
The plaintiff is seeking all past and future damages as a result of the physical pain and injury to her person and the emotional and mental anguish and trauma she has suffered.
Additionally, she’s seeking compensatory damages as well as exemplary damages against Valentine.
Valentine currently has a criminal case pending in Navarro County where the incident took place. The former deputy resigned from his position, following an investigation that was launched due to the inmate’s outcry.
He was arrested by Harrison County officials March 27 on a Navarro County warrant for violating the civil rights of a person in custody by engaging in sexual activity.
Bonds were set at $200,000 by Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Judge Mike Smith.
He’s been out on bail since.
Harrison County’s Chief Deputy Brandon Fletcher confirmed that Valentine began his employment at the sheriff’s office in November 2013 as a hospital security officer.
He later became a transport officer.