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Clark County settles cases over ex-corrections deputy

Clark County has settled two civil complaints involving the jail and Christopher A. North, a former corrections deputy who sexually assaulted two female inmates, for a combined $165,000.

The county in July agreed to pay one of the women $125,000, following the filing of a tort claim in May, according to a settlement and release agreement. The other woman, who filed a lawsuit against the county in April, reached a settlement for $40,000.

The women were targeted by North, 31, who was found guilty and sentenced earlier this year in Clark County Superior Court to 3 1/2 years in prison for second-degree custodial sexual misconduct, voyeurism and indecent exposure.

North escorted the woman, named in the May tort claim, to a locked holding cell and instructed her to change her clothes. While she was doing so, he entered the cell while she was undressed. North proceeded to expose himself, masturbate, and ejaculate onto the woman’s clothing, according to the tort claim filed with the county and obtained by The Columbian through a public records request.

The tort claim and settlement say North assaulted the woman July 18, 2017. Investigative documents provided by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office say the incident happened a week earlier.

Scott Edwards, the attorney representing both women, could not be reached for clarification.

North denied having sexual contact with the woman but told investigators he took her “yoga” pants from her jail property bag to his vehicle on a lunch break. He then masturbated on the pants before returning them to the bag, according to a letter of findings dated Aug. 2, 2017.

Eight days later, Sheriff Chuck Atkins sent North a letter of termination.

The settlement frees the jail from any future legal action brought by the woman for the incident described in the tort claim “that could have been pled by the (woman) against the county in a civil action.” The county said the settlement was not an admission of responsibility.

The woman, named in the April lawsuit, also agreed to drop all claims against the county as part of her settlement.

She was assaulted months before investigators interviewed North in July 2017. The sheriff’s office did not provide documents relating to this earlier incident.

The woman’s lawsuit sought an undisclosed amount in damages for mental, physical and emotional distress; pain and suffering; inconvenience; and other economic and noneconomic damages.

According to the lawsuit and a probable cause affidavit filed in North’s criminal case, in March 2017 North led the woman — who was going through the jail to be transferred elsewhere — to a private room to change. While she was changing into personal clothing, he opened a door, which led her to quickly put her top back on.

The woman said that later, as North was taking her fingerprints, he caressed her fingers and told her she was too pretty to be in jail, according to court records.

She was then placed in a cell with windows facing the property room. North stood in the doorway, exposed himself and began masturbating while looking at the woman, the affidavit said. The lawsuit states that North also made vulgar statements toward the woman.

The sheriff’s office also provided an undated citizen complaint filed against North, in which a man alleged North sent sexually explicit photos to the man’s girlfriend, who had been an inmate at the jail. In a response dated Jan. 9, 2018, Internal Affairs Sgt. Dennis Pritchard said the investigation into North was halted when North was fired, because the sheriff’s office’s discipline process does not “have authority over non-employees.”


Source: https://www.columbian.com

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