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24 February 2024

Prison teacher raped by sex offender: $3m payout

Inmate Jacob Harvey, accused of attacking a state prison teacher in Florence, Ariz. (AP)


An Arizona prison teacher who was left alone in a classroom and then raped by a convicted sex offender will receive $3 million from the state to settle a lawsuit, an agreement obtained by The Associated Press shows.

The agreement shows the state did not admit liability but agreed to the payment, and each side will pay their own attorney fees.

The state Attorney General's office previously declined to specify the settlement amount but released the agreement once it was fully signed Monday.

Mia Garcia, spokeswoman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said he made it a priority to settle the suit, which was filed by the prison teacher nine months after the January 2014 attack.

"This was something that was very, very important to him, and this was not something that he was trying to hide," Garcia said Monday.

Scott Zwillinger, the victim's lawyer, said the state's view of the case changed when Brnovich came into office in early 2015, setting the stage for a settlement.

"Both my client and I are grateful to the attorney general because his administration was interested in doing the right thing here," Zwillinger said. "And that allowed us to reach a settlement that's fair for my client and really for the state of Arizona as well."

The woman's lawsuit accused corrections officials of failing to protect her. It also accused the prison system's health care provider of failing to properly evaluate the prisoner charged in the assault, but the health care company was later dropped as a defendant.

The assault revealed serious shortcomings in security provisions for non-correction officers who work in Arizona's prison system.

After the assault, prison officials installed cameras in prison classrooms, increased patrols and issued pepper spray to civilian workers. They have said issuing pepper spray was planned before the rape.

The woman told the AP in an interview in a 2014 interview that she had been traumatized by the rape.

The AP generally doesn't identify sexual assault victims and isn't t naming the teacher.

Jacob Harvey was sentenced to life in prison this year after pleading guilty to the January 2014 rape at the Eyman state prison in Florence. He apologized to the woman at his sentencing.

The teacher's attorney read a lengthy statement from her at Harvey's sentencing describing how the rape led to what she called "unwanted psychological reactions, unwanted memories and psychological distress."

"At one point after the rape I wished inmate Harvey had just killed me because death seemed like a relief compared to the hell I was living," her statement said. "While I may have wanted to die shortly after the rape, I now have a greater purpose and will to live."

Harvey was in the first year of a 30-year term for raping a suburban Phoenix woman during a home invasion when he assaulted the teacher in a classroom.

Harvey repeatedly stabbed the teacher with a pen before raping her, according to investigative reports and the teacher.

The attorney general's office argued unsuccessfully in court early last year that the lawsuit should be thrown out. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Weisbard wrote that the teacher routinely worked in classrooms and there is always a risk of assault when working with prisoners.

However, the federal judge hearing the case refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying it raised plausible allegations that top officials created a dangerous environment that led to the rape.