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Sept. 21, 2020

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Clark County named in jail sexual assault lawsuit

Woman was sexually assaulted by corrections deputy while detained

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

A woman who was sexually assaulted by a Clark County corrections deputy while detained at the Clark County Jail in 2017 is suing the county, alleging it is “directly liable and at fault” for the deputy’s actions.

The former corrections deputy, 31-year-old Christopher A. North, sexually assaulted two women who were being held at the jail. He was sentenced earlier this year in Clark County Superior Court to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison. North pleaded guilty to second-degree custodial sexual misconduct, voyeurism and indecent exposure. He also entered an “in re Barr” plea to indecent liberties, meaning he pleaded guilty to a lesser related charge he didn’t commit to avoid conviction for a greater offense.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Superior Court alleges the county was negligent for hiring, training, supervising and retaining North. It also states the county failed to protect the woman and other inmates in custody at the jail, “from unreasonable dangerous conditions on its premises that Clark County knew of or should have known of.”

It further states the county is negligent “for not developing and/or implementing and/or effectively enforcing an effective protocol for the detection, prevention, and punishment of prison rape and/or sexual misconduct as is required by the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”

The lawsuit is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages for mental, physical and emotional distress; pain and suffering; inconvenience; and other economic and non-economic damages.

“The county was recently served with the complaint and is in the process of reviewing the allegations,” Civil Deputy Prosecutor Taylor Hallvik said in an email Friday.

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.

Afterward, he told her he had her personal information and would meet her outside of the jail, according to court records.

The woman was then transferred to the Cowlitz County Jail, where she reported the incident.

Vancouver attorney Scott Edwards, who’s representing the woman, said Friday it’s his understanding there may be other victims, and his firm is looking to identify them. He declined to comment on why North is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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