By IVAN MORENO
MILWAUKEE (AP) — A federal jury awarded $6.7 million to a former inmate who said a Milwaukee County jail officer raped her several times while she was pregnant in 2013.
The woman also said in her 2014 lawsuit that she was shackled while giving birth during her incarceration, but jurors on Wednesday rejected her claim that the practice violated her constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment.
The county expects to appeal the jury award.
Sheriff David Clarke, who oversees the jail, defended the practice of shackling inmates in a 2015 deposition, saying it’s necessary to protect hospital staff and that doctors can ask for shackles to be removed if medically necessary.
Clarke, a conservative firebrand who said last month the Trump administration offered him a job in the Department of Homeland Security, still faces a separate lawsuit from another pregnant inmate who said she was shackled while giving birth. The practice of shackling inmates precedes Clarke’s time as sheriff and dates back at least to 1994.
County prosecutors charged Xavier Thicklen with several counts of sexual assault of the inmate but dismissed the charges in 2014 in a plea deal where he was charged with felony misconduct in public office. Thicklen pleaded no contest to the charge, but the court ultimately found him guilty. He was sentenced to 3 days in jail and fined $200.
Jurors found Wednesday that Thicklen was acting as a county employee when the alleged assaults happened. He’s no longer employed by Milwaukee County.
“Thicklen’s abuse of his authority went wholly unchecked by the Sheriff, or any of the supervisors to which the Sheriff delegated his supervisory responsibilities,” the lawsuit stated.
Clarke, who has been one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters, said last month that he was taking a job as assistant secretary in DHS’ Office of Partnership and Engagement as a liaison to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. However, the department immediately declined to confirm the job offer and has not made an announcement to date.