Woman files federal lawsuit claiming she was raped at Cherokee County jail

A North Carolina woman has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was raped while an inmate in the Cherokee County jail. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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A North Carolina woman has filed a federal lawsuit claiming she was raped while an inmate in the Cherokee County jail. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A former inmate of the Cherokee County jail says she was raped and sexually assaulted by deputies in a federal lawsuit filed late last week.

The woman was held in Cherokee during 2019 and 2020 and was part of a jail program called Workforce, the lawsuit states. When she joined the program, she began to hear talk of inmates being sexually abused. Then, the lawsuit states, she became a victim.

In October 2020, the plaintiff says was raped and physically injured by a deputy in an area of the jail under construction and without cameras, the lawsuit states. The deputy then allegedly threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

“Rape, sexual battery, and coerced sexual acts with female ADC (adult detention center) inmates was rampant, routine, and widespread throughout the ADC, particularly in connection with the Workforce program,” the lawsuit states.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution generally does not name people who say they have been victims of sexual assault.

Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds and several members of the jail command staff are named as defendants in the suit, which seeks a jury trial and punitive damages. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said Friday the agency had not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on the pending litigation.

In June 2019, a Cherokee County deputy resigned following his arrest after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female inmate. Richard Gilleland was charged with two counts of sexual assault against a person in custody, two counts of sexual battery and two counts of violation of oath of office.

Gilleland isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit, but his arrest is mentioned.

“Although Gilleland was removed from the CSO in June of 2019, the custom, policy, and culture that allowed and encouraged widespread, pervasive sexual abuse at the ADC continued,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff was booked into jail on various drug charges on March 14, 2019. She was accused of being involved in a criminal drug trafficking enterprise and trying to hide evidence of the business, investigators said at the time. She was released on bond July 19, 2019, but arrested again when her bond was revoked that August. She was again released in October 2020, according to the sheriff’s office.

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