Idaho

Did Idaho prisons agency mishandle employee’s claims of rape? A jury will decide.

A former Idaho probation and parole employee whose relationship with a co-worker ended in accusations of rape is going to get her day in court.

Cynthia Fuller in an August 2013 lawsuit accused Idaho Department of Correction administrators of creating a hostile work environment and causing emotional distress. Defendants include Henry Atencio, at the time the chief deputy of probation and parole and now IDOC director.

Dismissed by a federal judge in December 2014, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday sent the case back to court for trial.

Fuller claims she was raped by co-worker Herbt Cruz three times over a two-week period in 2011. Her lawsuit focuses on how her supervisors at the Caldwell probation and parole office and IDOC’s top administrators handled her claims and other complaints by female employees about Cruz.

Fuller said she reported the rapes to Canyon County sheriff’s detectives several days after the third assault and obtained a restraining order against Cruz.

One week before the first sexual assault, IDOC placed Cruz on administrative leave because he was under criminal investigation for another rape, according to court documents. A supervisor later told employees (including Fuller) that the agency “looked forward” to his prompt return from leave.

One day after Fuller reported the first rape, a supervisor told her Cruz “had a history of this kind of behavior,” her lawsuit claims. Nonetheless, the supervisor sent an email to all agency employees the very next day, telling them to “feel free” to contact the man and “give him some encouragement.” When Fuller asked for paid administrative leave to deal with problems caused by the rape, she was told her case was not “unusual” enough to warrant that treatment. Cruz, however, was provided paid leave.

Fuller began working for IDOC in 2004. She quit in November 2011, about two months after she was first assaulted.

No criminal charges were apparently ever filed against Cruz, who resigned from IDOC in January 2012 — citing personal reasons, an agency spokesman said at the time. Attempts by the Statesman to contact him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

U.S. District Judge Justin L. Quakenbush dismissed Fuller’s claims before trial in December 2014. He was responding to a motion for summary judgment, under which either party can ask the judge to decide the opposing party would not prevail, given the undisputed facts of the case at that point, and dismiss the case without trial.

Fuller appealed to the 9th Circuit, which said she provided “sufficient admissible evidence to avoid summary judgment” on her hostile workplace claim.

IDOC officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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