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Federal sexual assault lawsuit against Ashland County dismissed

Danielle Kaeding

Wisconsin Public Radio

A federal lawsuit and claims brought by five women against Ashland County, its sheriff and jail administrator involving allegations of sexual misconduct by a corrections officer have been dismissed.

The women said they were harassed and assaulted while they were inmates at the Ashland County Jail. The initial complaint filed in U.S. Western District Court of Wisconsin last year alleged Ashland County jail officer Chris Bond, who is now deceased, took a 27-year-old woman from her cell to fondle her and force her to have oral sex. Separate complaints from the other women were subsequently consolidated into one lawsuit.

They argued their constitutional rights were violated in the suit, which also alleged that defendants showed "reckless or callous indifference" for the women’s rights.

Madison-based attorney Jeff Scott Olson, who serves as co-counsel for the women said his clients had an incredibly difficult burden of proof in the case because they had to show the county, sheriff and others in the lawsuit knew or should have known abuse was taking place but were deliberately indifferent to it. While the suit was dismissed, he said each of the five women received a settlement ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.

"Neither side is ever opening the champagne after a negotiated settlement," said Olson. "The defense always pays more than they think they should have to pay and the plaintiffs always receive less than what they ought to receive."

Olson said it was a tragic case for all involved.

"It was tragic for the women who were taken advantage of and abused," he said. "It was tragic for Mr. Bond, who was obviously a disturbed individual; tragic for his family."

The five women can’t bring their claims back for future litigation as a stipulation of the dismissal. The women’s lead counsel, Craig Haukaas, said in an email that the settlement was reached with the county’s insurance company. The county will also pay $137,500 for litigation costs, according to Olson.

Attorneys for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Ashland County Sheriff Mick Brennan and Ashland County Administrator Jeff Beirl declined to comment.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2018, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. Find more WPR news on KUWS-FM 91.3 or wpr.org.

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