Jury awards $1.35 million in Kodiak rape suit

Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2000

KODIAK (AP) -- The Kodiak Island Borough was ordered Tuesday to pay $1.35 million to the mother of a developmentally disabled woman sexually assaulted by two borough employees at a residential treatment program.

After deliberating four hours, a 12-member jury awarded $1 million for emotional damages and the rest for economic damages.

The mother of the assaulted women wept as the negligence verdict was read.

''The jury really took their job to heart and we're grateful to them,'' said her attorney, Kirstin Tinglum. ''We feel that justice was served.''

Borough defense attorney James Gilmore told the Kodiak Daily Mirror that it was too early to talk about an appeal. He said he needed to talk to his client first.

The attorneys presented their summations of the case Tuesday.

Tinglum told jurors the borough was negligent in hiring two employees with known criminal records that included violence against women and problems with substance abuse.

She said the borough ignored warning signs because it was more concerned about protecting the reputation of its program and employees than protecting clients.

Another developmentally disabled client had accused one of the employees, Jacob Simeonoff, of sexually abusing her in 1987. The police dropped their investigation after the borough told them the client frequently lied about sexual abuse and Simeonoff continued working at the facility, Tinglum said.

Simeonoff was later found to have fathered the baby of the disabled woman in court case. He pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault and served eight months in prison.

Another employee, Dana McNair, also was accused of sexually assaulting the woman. McNair could not be located for prosecution.

The two employees had keys to the single women's apartments in the semi-independent unit and supervised the unit alone at night, dispensing medications to the developmentally disabled women.

Tinglum asked that the borough pay $500,000 for each instance of sexual abuse and $467,000 to help the disabled mother and her child obtain additional services, such as a full-time nanny, a boarding school and a caseworker until the 9-year-old is 18.

In his summation, defense attorney Gilmore asked the jury to decide whether the borough staff's conduct was reasonable.

He said many professionals, including state probation officers, mental health department staff, and employees of the Kodiak Council on Alcoholism and the Kodiak Area Native Association, watched Simeonoff for 11 months before he was hired as a peer manager. They gave glowing accounts of his abilities with clients and his sobriety when he was hired, Gilmore said.

He said the residential treatment program director spent two to three hours a day counseling Simeonoff under the terms of his probation before he was hired, Gilmore said. Gilmore said that at the time, other programs were following similar hiring procedures, sometimes offering less training and employee supervision.

After the first sexual abuse allegations by another female client, the borough hired an attorney, contacted police and left the investigation in their hands, Gilmore said. Had the police recommended that the borough dismiss Simeonoff, it would have done so, Gilmore said.

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