State reaches settlement in Echo Glen rape case

July 12, 2011

By Laura Geggel

The state has agreed to pay $375,000 to a woman who was raped by an employee of Echo Glen Children’s Center in 2008.

Echo Glen is Washington’s juvenile detention center located in Snoqualmie, and is part of the Issaquah School District.

“A criminal act was inflicted upon this resident by a depraved individual more than three years ago and we deeply regret that it took place,” state Department of Social and Health Services Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration Assistant Secretary John Clayton said in a news release.

In 2008, then 38-year-old Robert Fox sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman at Echo Glen.

Since the incident, Fox was charged and pleaded guilty to first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, and spent eight months behind bars.

The woman also sued the state for employing Fox, a man her lawyers called unqualified for the job, and for not protecting her from him.

After reviewing the 2008 incident, Clayton initiated several changes at Echo Glen, including:

  • Changing the pattern of staff inspection rounds during nighttime hours;
  • Installing additional security cameras;
  • Increasing assessments of new staff members before they are assigned as single staff in a living unit.

Fox began working at Echo Glen in March 2008 as a part-time staff member.

“He didn’t have any qualifications for the job,” Micah LeBank, one of the woman’s attorneys said. “He really didn’t have any experience working with youth, he didn’t have correctional experience — he really shouldn’t have been hired for the job.”

A news release from the DSHS said that Fox had positive references from prior employers and passed a thorough background check.

On April 22, 2008, an Echo Glen employee emailed administrators and management, complaining that Fox “had been coming onto her pretty aggressively and wouldn’t leave her alone,” LeBank said.

In the email, the employee reported a conversation she had with Fox, writing, “‘Hey I’m only 22,’ and he said, ‘That’s OK, I like them young,’” LeBank said.

Echo Glen administrators spoke to Fox about the incident.

“Mr. Fox was told the conversation was inappropriate and he agreed,” DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said.

After the discussion, Fox continued to work with student inmates.

Fox would sometimes supervise students as they walked around campus, and would frequently walk the woman to the mailroom. One time, he took a photo of her with a friend, which is against Echo Glen policy, according to charging papers.

Fox’s behavior began to make the woman nervous, she reported in the charging papers.

One night when she was upset, he sat down beside her and put his hand on her leg, prompting her to get up and leave the room.

Another time, he invited her to watch a movie with him, but since she did not feel comfortable being alone with him, the woman decided to leave, according to charging papers.

The night of May 6, 2008, Fox came to her cottage during his shift and offered her an energy drink. She put the drink on her nightstand, and went back to sleep. He left, but returned shortly after and raped her, according to the charging papers.

The next day, the woman was very emotional, and confided in a friend about what happened; the friend reported it to staff.

Echo Glen fired Fox May 9, 2008.

“It was a pretty disgusting rape,” LeBank said. “She had been doing well at Echo Glen and it really set her back a lot. She saw treatment at Harborview and was diagnosed with PTSD.”

The woman sued the state in 2009; the settlement was reached July 7.

The woman, now 22, is serving time at Grant County Jail in Eastern Washington for violating her parole.

The woman grew up in a family where she was exposed to drugs at a young age, LeBank said, adding that most of her criminal behavior was related to drug use.

Now that the case is settled, her lawyers said they plan to help the woman get on the right track.

“Our goal is to make the money go as far as possible to help her get treatment and education so she can integrate into the community,” LeBank said about the settlement.

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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