An inmate who raped a teacher at an Arizona state prison in 2014 may be forced to pay her $10 million — in the unlikely event that he gets out of prison and/or inherits a boatload of cash.
A federal magistrate made the recommendation earlier this month after Jacob Harvey, 22, declined the help of a defense attorney and refused to participate in court hearings.
The court tried three times to loop Harvey into proceedings via teleconference, but he mumbled incoherently when handed the phone, according to court documents. On the third attempt, Harvey told the correctional officer coordinating the call that he was "done," and then, after listening to the hearing, repeated that he had nothing to say to the court.
It is now up to U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton to accept or reject the recommendation.
Harvey, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation, was one year into a 30-year sentence for raping a suburban Phoenix woman when he attacked the teacher, who was administering him a practice test for a high-school equivalency certificate. He was sentenced to life after pleading guilty to criminal charges in September.
The teacher, with the help of Scottsdale lawyer Scott Zwillinger, sued for compensatory and punitive damages for assault and battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the rape, and, Zwillinger argued in court documents, is "likely to struggle with emotional and physical trauma and disturbances ... for the rest of her life."
Initially, Harvey was one of several defendants in the suit, which also named the State of Arizona and Corizon Health, Inc., a private company contracted to manage medical care in the state's prisons.
The state defendants agreed to pay the victim a $3 million settlement in December.
The woman was alone in the classroom with Harvey at the time of the assault, which raised questions about workplace-safety practices at the Arizona Department of Corrections. No correctional officers were within earshot, and no cameras were in the room.
Arizona has since spent $600,000 on a security overhaul, which included outfitting teachers with pepper spray, installing cameras in classrooms, and increasing the frequency of in-person security checks.
Critics maintain that chronic understaffing among correctional officers and mental-health professionals still leaves prison teachers vulnerable.
The victim told New Times she pursued the lawsuit in part to draw attention to what she describes as unsafe working conditions, arguing that authorities needed a "kick in the butt" to reform.
"No one should go to work and wonder if they're going to come home at five o'clock," she said. "Regardless of where they work."
Read more about the case in the New Times cover story "Just Us."
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