A Kokomo woman put the Howard County Sheriff’s Department on notice recently, making her intentions clear that she will be suing the department after she allegedly was sexually assaulted while incarcerated in the local jail.
On June 16, a tort claim notice was sent to the sheriff’s department, county commissioners, and county jail by the attorney of Shana Turner. That notice showed Turner intended to seek damages over the claim that she was sexually assaulted at the jail in February in separate incidents by jail employees. The case relates to allegations that led to the ousting of six employees at the jail earlier this year.
“I will do everything on behalf of my client and any of the victims to get to the bottom of what happened and have the truth exposed,” said attorney Timoth Stoesz, who represents Turner. “This is not an indictment of the entire Howard County Sheriff’s Department. I know some Howard County Sheriff’s Department employees and have represented them, and they’re good people. But if there are bad apples, then the bad apples need to be removed.”
According to the tort claim, two incidents occurred while Turner was incarcerated at the jail.
“On or about Feb. 2 and 3, 2020, Shana Nicole Turner was sexually assaulted by officers of the Howard County jail, Howard County Sheriff’s Department, and Howard County. The sexual assaults of Ms. Turner were illegal and caused damage to her,” read the claim.
According to Stoesz, these were separate incidents, and a different jail employee was involved in each alleged sexual assault.
The Kokomo Perspective is not identifying which officers are named in the claim until a civil suit is filed, but the alleged incidents relate to a spate of firings that occurred earlier this year at the jail. The firings primarily related to allegations of “improper activity with inmates.” Sheriff Jerry Asher fired employees for this, as well as for impropriety that occurred during the ensuing internal investigations. The results of these investigations eventually also were forwarded to the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office. One officer was eventually charged.
The two incidents that gave rise to Turner’s suit did not give rise to criminal charges being filed. In response to a request for comment, Howard County Prosecutor Mark McCann released the following statement:
“In reference to Case Number HCSD 2020-000329 involving two terminated Howard County Correctional Officers, the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office reviewed the investigation for the purpose of making a charging decision. Based on the information provided by HCSD Detective Waymire, there was insufficient evidence to file charges against both individuals. There is no independent evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a crime occurred. Our office has closed this file. If further evidence is obtained, our office will re-open the file and re-review the case.”
But, Stoesz took issue with the internal investigations conducted by HCSD.
“After reading the Howard County prosecutor’s statement to the media recently, it appears the Howard County Sheriff’s Department investigated the Howard County Sheriff’s Department,” said Stoesz. “I find that unbelievable … There is an inherent conflict of interest to investigate one’s own self. The bias is, on its face, obvious. It’s time for the Howard County Sheriff’s Department, the Howard County commissioners, and the Howard County attorney to ask for an Indiana State Police investigation of this entire episode.”
Asher declined to comment on the tort claim, citing the pending litigation.
Stoesz also said that another former female inmate of the jail had contacted him with similar allegations to Turner recently. At this point, the attorney said he was not sure if this inmate’s claims would result in a civil suit.
In the claim filed by Stoesz, it noted that Turner would seek the maximum amount of $700,000 for “each occurrence of negligence by each individual employee of Howard County and the Howard County Sheriff’s Department.” The claim, at this point, is that HCSD failed to properly train its employees and supervise them, leading to the alleged sexual assault.
When the allegations first surfaced this year, a release from Asher noted “the sheriff has a zero-tolerance policy for violations of this nature and took immediate action to investigate the allegations and swiftly terminate bad actors.” That release also stated “all department staff receive extensive training on department policies and codes of conduct,” and after the incidents occurred a division-wide retraining was held to review department policies and codes of conduct.
With the tort claim served, those named in the claim have 90 days to respond, after which Stoesz said he intended to formally file a civil suit on his client’s behalf. He also urged any other potential victims to contact his office.