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Stanfield v. Dart

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 13, 2014

THOMAS DART, in his individual capacity, COOK COUNTY, a unit of municipal government; COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, a political subdivision; THOMAS SNOOKS, SCOTT KURTOVICH, individually, Defendants.


VIRGINIA M. KENDALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Barbara Stanfield filed a six-count complaint against Thomas Dart, Cook County, the Cook County Sheriff's Department ("Sheriff"), Thomas Snooks, and Scott Kurtovich for various claims premised on allegations of sexual harassment. The Court granted a Motion for Summary Judgment as to Defendants Dart, Kurtovich, and Cook County. (Dkt. Nos. 211, 212.) See also Stanfield v. Dart, 2012 WL 6720433 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 27, 2012). The trial among Stanfield and the remaining Defendants, Cook County, the Sheriff, and Snooks (hereinafter, the "Defendants") began on May 20, 2013. The allegations against the Defendants were serious and often disturbing; yet, the Defendants offered an entirely different version of the facts through testimony. In the end, the trial was a battle of credibility. After days of testimony, exhibits, and argument, a jury found for the Defendants on all eight claims and awarded Stanfield $0 in compensatory and punitive damages on May 30, 2013. On June 27, 2013, Stanfield filed the present Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law ("JMOL") pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(b), or in the alternative, a New Trial pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a). For the reasons set forth below, Stanfield's motion is denied.


I. Primary Trial Testimony

This is a case of dueling testimonies and is, ultimately, a credibility dispute between Stanfield and Snooks. Stanfield was a Correctional Officer with the Cook County Sheriff's Department working in various administrative units for the Cook County jail. She alleged in her Complaint that, in late 2009, Snooks sexually harassed her by repeatedly touching her breasts, asking her for massages, and ejaculating on her face after trying to force her to perform fellatio on him. As indicated by the official trial transcripts the parties requested (they did not request the complete trial), the Court treats the testimony of Stanfield, Snooks, and the seven corroborating witnesses discussed below as the "primary" evidence presented at trial.

A. Stanfield's Testimony

1. Stanfield's Career at the Sheriff's Department and her Initial Interactions with Snooks

Stanfield joined the Cook County Sheriff's Department in 1991. (5/21/13 AM at p. 24.) She started out as a cadet in the Work Release unit, and eventually became an officer working in various units that serve the prisons. ( Id. at pp. 26-28.) Stanfield's performance record with the Cook County Sheriff's Department contains no instances of her being disciplined for failing to perform her job. ( Id. at p. 197.)

Stanfield testified that she first met Snooks in August 2009 when she was walking between buildings at the Department of Community Supervision and Intervention ("DCSI"). (5/21/13 AM at pp. 45, 52.) Although she had never spoken to him, he stopped her and said things like, "You look nice. Do you have a boyfriend?", "Do you cheat on him? Do you mess around on him?", and "Can you get out of town?". ( Id. at pp. 46-47.) Stanfield responded that she did have a boyfriend but that she did not and would not cheat on him with Snooks. ( Id. at pp. 46-47.) Snooks then asked her where she worked, and she told him she would soon be transferring to the Central Kitchen department. ( Id. at p. 47.) Snooks replied that he was the superintendent in charge of that department and asked her if she would like to work in a recycling program that was being created. ( Id. at p. 47.) Stanfield told him she would be interested in that program, but declined to give Snooks her personal phone number when he asked for it under the premise of calling her to talk about the program. ( Id. at p. 47.) Later on, Snooks called Stanfield at work number and asked her to meet him in a public place to discuss the recycling program. ( Id. at p. 53.) Stanfield agreed and suggested the Mellow Yellow in Hyde Park. ( Id. at p. 53.) However, Snooks never came to the Mellow Yellow, and was not there when Stanfield arrived for their meeting. ( Id. at p. 54.)

Shortly thereafter, in October 2009, Stanfield was transferred to Central Kitchen at her request. (5/21/13 AM at p. 56.) Stanfield sought this transfer because the hours would allow her to more easily take care of her daughter, who was having a difficult pregnancy. ( Id. at p. 25.) She was only there for two weeks before she was involuntarily transferred to Records, which she later learned was done at Snooks's request. ( Id. at pp. 57-58, 63.) Stanfield had no prior experience working in Records, but noted that Snooks's office was physically located in that department at the time. ( Id. at pp. 56, 63-64.) While she worked in Records, Snooks determined Stanfield's eligibility for overtime, and when she filled out overtime slips, she turned them in directly to him. ( Id. at pp. 69, 85.)

During this same time period, Stanfield began receiving numerous text messages from Snooks asking her what color bra she was wearing and to send him pictures of her in her bra. (5/21/13 AM at pp. 58-59.) She declined these requests by telling Snooks that the camera on her phone did not work, but never expressly asked him to stop making the requests. ( Id. at pp. 59-60.) She never said "stop" because she was afraid that Snooks would "start acting crazy" by reassigning her to an undesirable department, and by otherwise harassing and bothering her. ( Id. at p. 60.) Stanfield did not save these text messages, and she was unable to obtain information about them from her phone company. (5/22/13 AM at p. 20.)

On Stanfield's first day in Records, she noticed some of the female employees giving Snooks a massage, which she found odd. (5/21/13 AM at p. 72.) On her second day, Snooks asked her to give him a massage because he was stressed. ( Id. at p. 71.) She complied, and after giving him a massage for some time, Desiree Sowders, a civilian employee, took over. ( Id. at pp. 72-73.) Stanfield frequently saw women giving Snooks massages throughout the entirety of her tenure in Records. ( Id. at p. 73.) Lieutenant Charles Luna saw Stanfield massaging Snooks and told Stanfield that she should "be careful with this guy [Snooks]." ( Id. at p. 74.) Snooks replied, "I got cases piled up on me. I don't give an F. They can't do nothing to me. I'm getting ready to leave here." ( Id. at p. 74.)[2]

On Wednesday, October 21, 2009, Stanfield arrived at 6:00 a.m., filled out an overtime sheet, and put it on Snooks's desk. (5/21/13 AM at p. 89; 5/21/13 PM at p. 122.) An hour later, Snooks called her and asked her to come to give him a massage, and she complied because she was ordered to do it and was "afraid" and of the "repercussions" of not doing it. (5/21/13 AM at p. 90.) Later that same day, at around 9:00 a.m., Snooks again called Stanfield, but this time asked her to go to his other office, located in the basement, to discuss a project she was working on. ( Id. at pp. 92-93.) As soon as Stanfield entered the office, Snooks asked her to lock the door, locking it himself when she refused. ( Id. at pp. 93-94, 97.) The office had a couch, and Snooks proceeded to lay down on it and asked Stanfield to massage his legs. ( Id. at p. 101.) When she refused, he said, "Well, how about some head?" ( Id. at p. 101.) Stanfield said, "No, I'm not going to give you head." ( Id. at p. 101.) Snooks then grabbed her arm and, when she threatened to yell, told her, "I don't care. Go ahead. Go ahead. I don't give an F, " and then said, "I'm going to-I'm going to be leaving out of here with 80, 000 a year, and I'll make your life a living F-ing hell." ( Id. at p. 101.) Snooks then started "gesturing with his pants" and "quickly" pulled out his penis and ejaculated on Stanfield's face as he pushed her head down to his penis in an attempt to have her perform fellatio. ( Id. at pp. 102-03.) Stanfield tried to ask Snooks to stop, but it was too late. (5/21/13 PM at p. 154.)

Stanfield knew that there were two women standing outside the door to the basement office, but she did not try to leave or call out to them because Snooks had threatened her. (5/22/13 AM at p. 22.) Snooks's penis was erect (and not flaccid) during the entire duration of the event. (5/21/13 AM at p. 104.) He used a bed sheet to clean up his semen and, as he left the room, said he was going to a meeting and was eager to share the news of the "good time" he just had. ( Id. at pp. 105-06.) Stanfield did not say anything to him while he was leaving. ( Id. at p. 106.) Once Snooks was gone, Stanfield used the same sheet to clean his ejaculate from her face. (5/21/13 PM at p. 113.) After washing up, Stanfield placed the sheet in a plastic garbage bag, balled it up, put it in her purse, and took it with her. ( Id. at p. 114.)

Stanfield left the basement office after the incident but did not immediately report the incident to Snooks's superiors. (5/22/13 AM at p. 29.) Instead, she walked up two flights of stairs-past the offices of those superiors-to the Officer's Dining Room ("ODR"), and sat quietly, thinking about what had just happened. ( Id. at p. 29.) Rather than provide the sheet and semen to her superiors, she took it home with her and stored it in a freezer in a locked garage at her home. (5/28/13 AM at p. 92) Dr. Carl Reich conducted the undisputed tests that confirmed Snooks's semen was on the sheet. ( Id. at p. 114.)

Stanfield left work early that day but nevertheless received overtime pay, approved by Snooks. (5/21/13 PM at pp. 121-22.) Later that week, on Friday, October 23, 2009, Snooks approached Stanfield and asked what color bra she was wearing, and also tried to unbutton her shirt. ( Id. at pp. 129-30.) Stanfield pushed his hand away and told him to leave her alone and to stop bothering her. ( Id. at p. 132.) A week later, on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, Snooks again tried to unbutton Snooks's blouse and "fumbled with [her] breasts." ( Id. at pp. 133-34.) Stanfield walked away from him to prevent more groping and "may had said move' or leave me alone.'" ( Id. at p. 134.)

Eventually, Snooks was transferred out of Records, and at that time, he contacted Stanfield to notify her that he was transferring her back to Central Kitchen. (5/21/13 PM at p. 134-35.) After Snooks was transferred, and although he was no longer her supervisor, there were two situations when Stanfield contacted him to ask for his help. First, she believed that Lieutenant Moore in Central Kitchen was picking on her, so she called Snooks to have him ask Lieutenant Moore to stop. ( Id. at pp. 136-37.) Snooks complied with the request, and Lieutenant Moore stopped picking on Stanfield. ( Id. at p. 138.) Second, Stanfield needed emergency time off to attend the birth of her grandson in December 2009, and she called Snooks when her initial request was denied because the schedule had already been finalized. ( Id. at p. 139.) Snooks again helped her and approved her time off. ( Id. )

2. Stanfield's Cooperation in the Investigation of Snooks's Conduct

In March of 2010, Stanfield attended a class about sexual harassment. (5/21/13 PM at p. 159.) After the class ended, she spoke to the instructor, Investigator Holman, and told him that a "powerful" person "tried to force [her] to have fellatio on him" and that he "ejaculated" on her face. ( Id. at p. 159.) Stanfield did not mention Snooks by name. ( Id. at p. 159.) Holman told her to contact the Cook County State's Attorney, and she replied that she was afraid they would not help her because they would be representing the perpetrator. ( Id. at p. 160.) However, after this conversation, Stanfield gave the sheet containing Snooks's semen to her attorney in the present federal civil lawsuit. (5/28/13 AM at p. 94.) The Office of Professional Review ("OPR") eventually contacted Stanfield in mid-2010. (5/21/13 PM at p. 166.) Investigators Pon and Garcia asked her to give them a statement. ( Id. at p. 166.) Stanfield complied and proceeded to tell them about the incident that occurred with Snooks. ( Id. at p. 167.) Stanfield did not initiate her complaint with the OPR prior to that because she did not trust them, in part because Snooks used to work in that department. (5/21/13 PM at pp. 153-54.) She did not go directly to the Cook County State's Attorney with her charge because she thought they would be representing Snooks. ( Id. at p. 158.) No criminal or administrative charges were ever filed against Snooks. (5/28/13 AM at p. 56.) Moreover, although Stanfield was a member of a union at the time, she also did not file a grievance with them. (5/21/13 PM at p. 203.)

Although Stanfield testified that she did not report the incident sooner and directly to her supervisor's because she was afraid of Snooks and saw him lose his temper "constantly, " (5/21/13 PM at pp. 123-24), she had previously filed a claim of harassment against a supervisor. (5/22/13 AM at pp. 11-13.) In her deposition for the present lawsuit, Stanfield testified that it was a "sexual harassment" complaint, but at trial she testified that she did not mean to agree to the Defendants' characterization of the harassment as "sexual" because it was not. ( Id. at pp. 11-13.) Additionally, in the present case, Stanfield also knew that Snooks's superiors did not like Snooks and had had no problem disciplining him in the past, and that she would have had no difficulty reporting Snooks's conduct to them because they were frequently physically present in the Records department. ( Id. at p. 17.)

On June 22, 2010, right around the time she filed for duty injury (as discussed below), Stanfield also filed a Sexual Harassment Complaint Form regarding Snooks to the Sheriff's Office, (5/21/13 PM at pp. 151, 153), and a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). ( Id. at p. 156.) Eight days after Stanfield filed these claims, on June 30, 2010, Snooks retired. ( Id. at p. 155.)

3. Injury Duty and Doctor's Assessments

On June 17, 2010, Stanfield filed for and was granted duty injury due to the psychological and emotional toll the incident with Snooks had taken on her. (5/21/13 PM at p. 167.) While on duty injury, Stanfield received 60% of her pay but did not work and did not receive communications from the Sheriff. ( Id. at p. 172.) Stanfield had been seeing several doctors regarding her mental state during the time since the incident. She saw Dr. Erika Brown, her primary care doctor, in February 2010. ( Id. at p. 168.) Stanfield told Dr. Brown about how stressed she had been feeling since Snooks sexually harassed her, and Dr. Brown subsequently prescribed anti-anxiety medication. ( Id. at p. 168.) Stanfield also saw Dr. Joan Porche, a psychotherapist (but not a medical doctor), as recommended by the County Employee Assistance Program. ( Id. at pp. 167-69.) Stanfield and Dr. Porche met approximately 60 times during her treatment, with each appointment lasting one hour. ( Id. at p. 174.)

Stanfield also saw a psychiatrist, Dr. Sudhir Gohkale, in February of 2011, who prescribed her several medications, including the anti-depressant Abilify. (5/21/13 PM at p. 170.) She was seeing these doctors because she was in a "real bad depression" and could not function normally. (5/21/13 PM at p. 173.) Her symptoms improved over time, and Stanfield returned to work on July 30, 2012. (5/21/13 PM at p. 172.) When she returned, she was assigned to work in the same building in which the incident took place. (5/21/13 PM at p. 177.) Stanfield still struggles with the memory of the incident and would prefer to leave Chicago entirely, but does not have the money she would need to do so. (5/22/13 AM at p. 98.)

B. Snooks's Testimony

Snooks flatly denied every allegation made by Stanfield: he never grabbed her, he never ejaculated on her, he never asked about her bra, he never asked to see her bra, he never sent text messages asking for photos of her in her bra, he never asked for massages of his shoulders or legs, he never received a massage from her, and he never asked for oral sex in exchange for overtime. (5/28/13 PM at pp. 139-40.) Although he never demanded back rubs, Desiree Sowders did give them to him, but that was because she was generally friendly and eager to help the team. ( Id. at p. 164.) The practice of colleagues giving each other backrubs in Records began long before Snooks worked in the department. ( Id. at p. 165.) He did not have anger problems and was transferred from OPR for "mutual reasons, " not because he was unable to control his temper and did not get along with his superiors. ( Id. at p. 148.) Stanfield was transferred to Records (after Snooks had been there for 1.5 weeks) because she herself requested the move. ( Id. at pp. 162-63.) Snooks could not have offered to give Stanfield overtime in exchange for oral sex because the overtime slips did not go directly to him, and instead went through a shift supervisor before they arrived at his desk for approval. ( Id. at pp. 165-66.) He could not have engaged in the behavior alleged because he has no muscle mass on his left arm, and therefore did not have the strength to force Stanfield down to his penis as she described. ( Id. at pp. 191-92.)

Snooks worked long hours and frequently slept on the hard plastic couch in the basement office. (5/28/13 PM at pp. 168-71.) He made a makeshift bed using sheets from the prison as blankets, folding some of them up to make a pillow. ( Id. at pp. 170-71.) Snooks worked so much that he ended up putting the prison before his personal life, causing he and his wife to separate. ( Id. at p. 153.) He was also in poor health. He had "severe diabetes, " had had a heart attack and was taking medication to prevent another, and was taking Zoloft and Lorazepam for anxiety. ( Id. at pp. 172-74.)

Most relevant among Snooks's ailments was his erectile dysfunction. (5/28/13 PM at p. 174.) He had taken the erectile dysfunction medication Cialis in the past, but stopped because it gave him severe headaches and made it hard for him to breathe. ( Id. at p. 177-78.) Notably, he was not taking any erectile dysfunction medication in 2009 when the incident with Stanfield allegedly took place. ( Id. at p. 178.) Nevertheless, Snooks also testified that he ejaculates while sleeping, and he occasionally detects the presence of his semen when he wakes up and feels something wet. ( Id. at pp. 223, 228-29.) Snooks otherwise could not explain how his semen was identified on the sheet Stanfield possessed. ( Id. at p. 223.)

When Snooks first met Stanfield, she asked him about moving to Central Kitchen because of the problems with Stanfield's daughter's pregnancy. (5/28/13 PM at p. 179.) Snooks did not know Stanfield's name at this point. ( Id. at p. 179.) Snooks told Stanfield about a potential recycling program she could work on in Central Kitchen, but the program never came to fruition because an outside contractor won the bid to conduct the program. ( Id. at pp. 180-81.) Before they knew the recycling program would not go forward, it was Stanfield who contacted Snooks about meeting at the Mellow Yellow to discuss the program, but Snooks did not attend the meeting because he was at home with his children at the time. ( Id. at p. 183.) Stanfield was ...

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