Terre Haute parks volunteer awarded damages after ‘horrific’ sexual assault

A former Terre Haute parks employee who was convicted of a “horrific” sexual assault on a parks volunteer must pay his victim more than $1.5 million in damages plus attorney fees, a federal judge has ruled.

Indiana Southern District Judge James Sweeney ordered David Gray to pay his victim, proceeding as Jane Doe, $750,000 as compensatory damages and $750,000 as punitive damages in a Tuesday order. Gray was also ordered to pay $18,402 to attorneys with the Indianapolis law firm Keffer Barnhart LLP, and $2,500 to the Indianapolis firm of Greg Bowes Legal Services, P.C.

Gray was convicted of Level 5 felony confinement and Level 6 felony official misconduct after locking Doe in the bathroom of a Terre Haute park in November 2014. Doe was volunteering at the park as part of her court-ordered probation, and Gray led her into the restroom under the guise that it needed to be cleaned.

Once in the restroom, Doe noticed Gray had made a makeshift bed out of blankets and a pallet. He proceeded to force Doe to perform oral sex, then digitally penetrated her as she cried.

After the assault, Doe drove herself to a local hospital and reported Gray’s actions. Upon his conviction, Gray was released from pretrial home detention and was ordered to serve the balance of his sentence on probation, which was completed in October 2018.

Default judgment was also entered against Gray in the civil case of Jane Doe v. David Gray, 2:16-cv-124, though the district court entered summary judgment for Vigo County on Doe’s civil claims. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the summary judgment ruling last October, finding “nothing in the record would allow a trier of fact to find that Vigo County knew or should have known of the need to protect women in Doe’s position from employees such as Gray.”

In findings of fact entered in the civil case, Sweeney said Doe has “suffered humiliation, fear, and emotional distress” and was initially unable to eat or sleep in the days immediately after the assault. Additionally, the judge said Doe’s relationships with her two daughters and her fiancé have been negatively impacted, and she now has to attend regular counseling sessions.

The attack also resulted in lost wages for Doe, who initially quit her job for fear that Gray could find her. In all, Sweeney said she’s lost $3,039.98 in wages due to time spent attending counseling sessions, plus $5,966.28 spent on those sessions and $1,013.28 on anxiety and depression medication.

Sweeney entered judgment in Doe’s favor on her claims for sexual battery, battery, assault, confinement, intentional infliction of emotional distress and deprivation of her constitutional rights before awarding damages and attorneys’ fees.

“Doe’s state law claims entitle her to an award of punitive damages and the Court finds that an award of punitive damages is warranted to punish Gray for his horrific sexual assault of Doe,” Sweeney wrote. “An award of punitive damages will serve as an expression of society’s displeasure with Gray’s reprehensible conduct against Doe and his abuse of a position of authority over park volunteers.”

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