A federal lawsuit accusing a former Pulaski County jail supervisor of repeatedly sexually assaulting a female inmate in 2014 and 2015 has been settled, canceling a jury trial that was to begin Sept. 12 before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson.
Jamie Huffman Jones, an attorney for the former jailer, Scott Hazel, said Friday that the details of the settlement are confidential but that Hazel continues to deny that he had a sexual relationship with the woman.
"Scott still maintains that there were no inappropriate relations," Jones said.
On June 2, Hazel pleaded guilty in a related criminal case, admitting he made a false statement to FBI agents who were conducting a civil-rights investigation into allegations of sexual encounters between Hazel and the woman.
In return for his guilty plea, and at the request of prosecutors, Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller dropped the original charge Hazel had faced, sexual abuse of a ward, for which Hazel was facing a June 12 jury trial. Hazel is now awaiting sentencing on the false-statement charge.
In the civil lawsuit, the woman accused Hazel of battery, sexual assault and wrongful imprisonment. The suit also accused Pulaski County and Sheriff Charles "Doc" Holladay of creating an atmosphere in which illegal behavior was tolerated, thereby violating their constitutional duty to protect an inmate.
However, attorneys for the woman filed a motion July 25 asking that her claims against Holladay, the county and Hazel in his official capacity be dropped.
That left only claims against Hazel in his individual capacity -- which attorneys for the woman also asked to dismiss last week, citing a settlement but offering no details. Wilson granted the motions July 26 and dismissed the case.
Attorneys Kathryn Hudson and Justin Huett of Little Rock, who represent the woman who was a federal inmate at the time, filed their motions to dismiss the defendants in lieu of filing a response to the county's July 13 statement of undisputed facts.
In that statement, attorney David Fuqua said the county and Holladay wouldn't dispute the woman's allegations that Hazel "over a period of months initiated and cultivated an inappropriate relationship with [the woman] for the purpose of engaging in a sexual relationship with her."
The statement was filed in support of the county's request that the case be dismissed on legal arguments alone, with no need for a jury to settle factual disputes.
Fuqua noted that in the lawsuit, the woman alleged that "over the course of several months," Hazel "engaged in inappropriate contact and interaction with [the woman], who was eventually coerced by nature of Hazel's position of authority, control, and continued intimidation, into sexual intercourse in an empty office."
Hudson said in June that "there is no such thing as consensual sex with a prisoner" and that Hazel "groomed her just like a pedophile grooms a child," such as by encouraging her to write letters saying she missed him, so that he could use them to defend himself if she ever accused him of abusing her.
Hudson said the woman had previously been in an abusive relationship, and Hazel "knew she was a wounded bird" and took advantage of her vulnerability.
Fuqua said in his July 13 filing that the sheriff's office has a policy prohibiting sexual relations between jail staff members and inmates, and has a "zero tolerance policy" prohibiting sexual abuse or sexual harassment in the jail, including staff sexual misconduct.
During Hazel's employment as a jail supervisor, Fuqua said, Hazel knew sexual contact with an inmate was prohibited, and knew he was violating sheriff's office policy when he had sex with the woman. Fuqua cited parts of Hazel's recent deposition, which followed his guilty plea in the criminal case.
Fuqua said Holladay learned in April 2015 that the FBI was investigating an informant's allegation that Hazel had engaged in sexual misconduct in February 2014. Hazel was transferred out of the jail into an enforcement position in April 2015 and was allowed to begin training at the Law Enforcement Training Academy while the investigation proceeded, Fuqua said. Meanwhile, he said, the sheriff's office began its own investigation into the allegations.
On Oct. 7, 2015, Hazel was given notice of possible disciplinary action arising out of the internal investigation, and he resigned Oct. 13, 2015, according to the statement. It noted that on that day, the sheriff's office submitted paperwork to the Arkansas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training to begin Hazel's permanent decertification as a law enforcement officer.
Hazel was indicted Dec. 2, 2015, by a federal grand jury on a charge of having sexual contact with a federal inmate -- the charge that was dismissed in June when he pleaded guilty to the reduced charge. Hudson, disappointed about the plea agreement, noted that the reduced charge won't subject Hazel to having to register as a sex offender, as the other charge would have.
The female inmate was held at the county jail in 2014 and 2015 until she began serving a five-year sentence in a federal prison for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine. Hudson said in June that the woman had been released in October to a halfway house, in which federal inmates are often housed during the last part of their sentence.
Hudson couldn't be reached for comment this week. In June, she said the woman's encounters with Hazel "really destroyed her" and the woman was taking anti-anxiety medication as a result.
Hazel's criminal plea agreement cited an FBI agent's Sept. 15, 2015 interview with Hazel about an incident on the evening of Feb. 6, 2015, when the jail supervisor checked the woman out of her cell and took her to a private office.
The federal filing says Hazel lied when he told the agents the woman was a confidential informant and that he took her to the office to show her photographs of potentially corrupt guards.
Metro on 08/05/2017
Print Headline: Ex-jailer settles inmate's sex suit