BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A woman who said she was sexually harassed as a teenager by a corrections officer in Juvenile Hall has settled a lawsuit against the county.
The suit brought by Samantha Vasquez alleged civil rights violations and settled recently for $250,000. Her attorney, David K. Cohn of Chain Cohn Stiles, said the resolution of the suit, filed in 2016, was a long time coming.
“It vindicates our position that what (the corrections officer) did was violative of our client’s constitutional rights,” Cohn said.
County attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.
In 2015, a teenage Vasquez was arrested on an outstanding warrant and sent to Juvenile Hall. While there, corrections officer George Anderson allegedly made sexual comments to her, looked at her while she was in the shower and “groomed her for sexual abuse,” according to court documents.
Anderson also told Vazquez about a sexual dream he had about her, she told investigators.
The lead investigator who looked into Vazquez’s allegations later testified he “leaned toward them being true, toward the belief that it was more likely than not that they were true,” court documents said. Vazquez filed suit against Anderson and the county in 2016.
A district court judge who heard the case found the actions of Anderson did not rise to violating Vasquez’s constitutional rights. The judge granted summary judgment for the defendants.
Earlier this year, however, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, finding that a jury could have found the accused officer’s supervisor “knew or reasonably should have known” of the officer’s alleged misconduct and failed to take action to stop it. The district court was in error, the appellate panel said, when it concluded “there was no evidence supporting a causal link between the supervisor’s conduct and the officer’s alleged violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights.”
The suit went back to district court, where the settlement was reached in August and the case dismissed earlier this month.