Former jail inmate sues Franklin County over sexual assault by corrections officer

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A woman who was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer while locked up in jail claims Franklin County failed to adequately monitor and protect her.

The woman has filed a public injury lawsuit against Franklin County stemming from the criminal actions of former employee Justin T. Husom.

The county, which oversees the jail, is responsible and liable for all county employees, including those who work inside the corrections center, according to the lawsuit.

Yet, the county was negligent in its hiring, training, supervision and retention of Husom, resulting in the woman’s emotional and physical trauma, the lawsuit alleges.

“Rumors of Mr. Husom’s sexual misconduct were rampant throughout the jail, but jail supervisors failed to take adequate steps to protect (the woman) from Mr. Husom’s repeated sexual assaults,” said attorney Jeff Kreutz with the Tamaki Law office in Kennewick. “Correctional facilities have a non-delegable duty to protect inmates from predatory guards.”

A $1.5 million claim was submitted to the county Feb. 20. Kreutz said his client never got a response.

“This is the next step in trying to right the wrong that was done to our client,” he told the Herald.

The woman is not named in the lawsuit because of the sensitive nature of the allegations. She lives in Franklin County.

Husom had worked in the jail for more than three years when he resigned in March 2014.

He initially lied about having sexual contact with a female inmate when his supervisors heard the rumors in the jail in 2013. After later failing a polygraph test, he admitted having oral sex with a woman in an off-camera storage room at the jail. The contact reportedly was in exchange for a razor that she requested.

It was during a Franklin County Sheriff’s Office investigation, after Husom had quit his job, that a second female inmate came forward and said she and Husom had an ongoing sexual relationship, sometimes in exchange for contraband.

That relationship reportedly lasted for five months.

The victims were in their 20s.

Husom, 42, pleaded guilty last summer in Franklin County Superior Court to felony first-degree sexual misconduct, along with second-degree custodial sexual misconduct and official misconduct, both gross misdemeanors.

He was sentenced to 10 months, to be served in the same county jail where he used to work, but has been out of custody since December on a medical emergency furlough.

At his sentencing, Husom told the court he was ashamed of his actions, had learned from them and “will no doubt carry (it) with me for the rest of (my) life.”

Kreutz said his client was incarcerated “for a pretty minor crime” between December 2011 and May 2012. During that time, she was under the care and supervision of the sheriff’s office, the jail and the county overall, he said.

Husom used his position as a corrections officer to take advantage of the woman and sexually assault her, the lawsuit says.

The county has a duty to prevent “custodial sexual misconduct against vulnerable female inmates. (The county) breached this duty,” according to the lawsuit.

Kreutz said that under Washington law, a jail inmate can never freely consent to any type of sexual relationship with a guard.

He said Husom singled out these female inmates, who are prisoners of not just the jail but of the guards.

“She’s still struggling with this,” he said. “It’s not like my client was willingly going along with that.”

By law, the lawsuit cannot specify a damage amount. It will be up to a jury to determine the value of the case, Kreutz said.

The lawsuit asks for “an amount that will fairly compensate (the woman) for all damages sustained,” along with reasonable attorney fees and costs, and other relief deemed just and equitable by the court.

The county has 20 days to respond to respond to the lawsuit.

A schedule order filed with the lawsuit sets a trial date in May 2016.