Colorado jury awards $8.25 million to woman sheriff took to his home instead of jail
A federal jury on Tuesday awarded $8.25 million to a developmentally disabled woman who accused a Colorado sheriff of driving her to his house during a jail transport and sexually assaulting her before dropping her off at jail.
The jury found former Sedgwick County Sheriff Thomas Hanna liable of excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment and false imprisonment and awarded the woman $3.25 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, her attorney, David Fisher said. The verdict came after a two-day trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
“When the judge was reading the verdict [the woman] kept repeating, ‘Oh my god, I got my justice back, I got my justice back, they believed me,’ over and over again,” Fisher said.
Hanna was previously acquitted of sexual assault, kidnapping and soliciting a prostitute but convicted of official misconduct in connection with the incident.
He was sheriff on Aug. 10, 2016, when he decided to transport the woman, who was in custody, from the Sedgwick County Jail to the Logan County Jail in his personal pickup truck — a violation of department policy. But instead of going directly to the jail, he brought the woman to his house, where she said he offered her $60 to have sex with him, which she refused.
The woman claimed he then ordered her to undress, took off some of his own clothes and sexually assaulted her. Afterwards, he warned her not to tell anyone or she would go to prison for the rest of her life, the woman alleged in the lawsuit.
Hanna then took the woman to the Logan County Jail and put $20 in her commissary. He was arrested after a deputy happened to see the sheriff’s pickup truck parked outside his home during the time of the jail transport and became suspicious.
Hanna was charged and later acquitted of sexual assault, kidnapping and soliciting a prostitute. He was convicted of official misconduct. Hanna admitted to taking the disabled woman to his home but said he just wanted to privately talk to her about crime information. He denied sexually assaulting her. He declined to take a polygraph.
He was sentenced to seven months in jail with work release on the official misconduct conviction, which also prevents him from working in Colorado law enforcement.
Hanna’s attorney, Matt Buck, declined to comment on the verdict Wednesday and said Hanna also declined to comment. Hanna could not be reached.
The woman brought the federal civil rights lawsuit in 2018. She initially also sued the county and the sheriff’s department, but a judge removed them as defendants in the case before it went to trial. Fisher said he expects the woman will only be able to collect a small portion of the $8.25 million from Hanna.
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