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Verdicts & Settlements

Cook County Approves $3.25m Settlement for Woman Raped in Courthouse

— November 17, 2017

Cook County approved a $3.25 million settlement for a woman who’d been raped in a suburban Chicago holding cell.

The 52-year old woman was attacked twice in succession. Originally confined by herself, the victim was left alone with two male detainees.

A series of decisions termed “incomprehensible” by a Sheriff’s Office official led to the attack.

On May 2nd, 22-year old Hamidullah Tribble and 29-year old Nelon Drake asked Markham Courthouse employees for permission to use a toilet. Since their cell didn’t have an attached washroom, they were allowed to relieve themselves where the victim was being held.

Apparently unaccompanied and without supervision, the men assaulted the woman, one after another.

Both the perpetrators have been charged with sexual assault.

On the day of the crime, Tribble was charged with the aggravated kidnapping of a child, whereas Drake was answering accusations of murder.

Cara Smith, policy and communications chief for Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, said her office is seeking to fire nine employees “whose conduct contributed” to the assault.

Accused: Nelon Drake, left, and Hamidullah Tribble, right. Image via Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our investigation has shown gross misconduct on behalf of the involved employees,” she said. “We don’t have any evidence at this point that there was anything intentional, but the negligence was extraordinary.”

“The negligence of the individual staff was incomprehensible,” said Smith.

According to The Chicago Tribune, the County Board has already approved a $3.25 million settlement for the woman – even though she’d yet to file a lawsuit.

Smith said the prelitigation settlement “was in the best interest of everyone involved.”

She and Dart hope to terminate all of the employees – deputies and supervisors alike – found culpable after an internal investigation. Removals could begin as early as next week.

The employees who allowed the tragic oversight exhibited a blatant disregard for Cook County’s detainment policies. Another Tribune article, published in October, details how men and women are supposed to be kept in separate cells at all times.

“There’s a very bright line,” said Smith. “It should never happen. This isn’t some nuanced policy. This is a long-standing prohibition.

“You don’t house male and female detainees together. Period. Under any circumstances. So the fact that this occurred evidences a really shocking level of negligence on behalf of the staff that was involved.”

The assault seems to have been planned – or at least hastily concocted – by Tribble and Drake.

After Tribble had entered the woman’s cell and victimized her, Drake requested permission from a sheriff’s deputy to use the same washroom. Once inside, he also assaulted her.

Prosecutors report that, after returning to the same holding room as Tribble, a witness saw the two men “high-five.”

Later, while being transported out of lock-up, the men purportedly told a sheriff’s deputy that the woman had “forced herself” upon them.

The Tribune reports that, in the aftermath of the incident, the sheriff’s office has tried instating new policies and reforms. Among them is a mandate that deputies wear activated body cameras in any portion of the courthouse that isn’t covered by fixed cameras.


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