Former inmates awarded $11.5 million in Polk Co. sexual assault lawsuit

Two women have been awarded $11.5 million in a federal lawsuit. One of the women sat down with Fox 9.

On Friday, a jury in Madison, Wisconsin, found that both former Polk County jailer Darryl Christensen and Polk County were responsible for sexual assaults of two inmates.

Former inmate Melinda Juleen said the assaults happened 50-75 times while she was in jail. But because Christensen controlled every aspect of her daily life behind bars, and she was afraid that if she told on him, there would be retaliation.

“Unfortunately the captain of the jail and my probation officer at the time were dating, and he was also a friend of theirs outside of work.  I'd go to probation meetings and they would talk about meeting at the bar on the weekend. 

So, I felt like I couldn't talk to anybody about it,” Juleen said. 

Of the 11.5 million, Christensen was found responsible for most of the money. But, because he has no assets, it’s mostly symbolic. Polk County was found to be responsible for four million. 

It was a big win for attorney Lida Bannink who said “we had to show that they were aware of a risk, of the inmates being assaulted, and they failed to act upon that risk and that their failure to act, actually caused the sexual assault.” 

Polk County corporate counsel said if the dollar amount is finalized by a judge, the county will appeal the decision.  Christensen is serving 30 years in prison for sexully assualting five women when he was a jailer at the Polk County jail. He was also fire chief in Amery, Wisconsin.