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Detainees regularly expose themselves to female public defenders in Chicago, suit alleges

Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

One assistant public defender who pressed criminal charges against a detainee who masturbated in front of her last year later had to be in the same lockup with him several times, according to the lawsuit.

"On each such occasion the detainee yelled profanities and threats, including that he was going to 'beat the s--out of' her and 'motherf--ing kill' her," the suit said.

In addition, detainees have grabbed female assistant public defenders and law clerks by the legs or buttocks, the suit said.

Campanelli declined to comment Wednesday evening, saying she had not yet seen the lawsuit.

"The Public Defender has been working in collaboration for the past two years with the Sheriff and the Chief Judge to develop solutions to stop this behavior from occurring," the office said in a statement.

Last week, the office issued a blanket directive barring staffers from entering the lockup areas behind courtrooms, citing concerns for their personal safety, according to documents filed with the suit. Until further notice, assistant public defenders must request to speak to their clients in private rooms.

 

But the lawsuit blasted that effort, too, saying it keeps assistant public defenders from effectively doing their jobs.

Cara Smith, chief policy officer for Dart who also had not seen the lawsuit, said the sheriff's office has made a consistent effort to curb the detainees' misconduct, noting that deputies are victims as well when detainees expose themselves.

Adding more deputies to courtroom lockups was successful but not sustainable with the office facing a budget crunch, Smith said. In recent weeks, civilian employees of the sheriff's office have been posted in the lockups to deter the behavior, with good results, she said.

Authorities have tried multiple strategies to curb the misbehavior but all proved unsuccessful, the suit alleged.

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