The lawsuit of a 21-year-old female UVU student who was beaten beyond recognition and raped on the Provo river trail by an inmate who had escaped from his work release program has been dismissed. The victim sued Intermountain Staffing, Universal Industrial Sales and Jail Industries for negligence.
Judge David Mortensen dismissed the victim’s lawsuit, stating her claims failed to show that the accused, Shawn Michael Leonard, was someone who was especially dangerous compared to others in custody.
On June 9, 2010, Leonard walked away from his work release program and attacked a 19-year-old woman jogger on the Provo river trail outside the Branbury apartments. Leonard dragged his victim through the brush before beating her and sexually assaulting her. The victim blacked out during the attack and was left for dead in the woods.
Leonard severely damaged the victim’s face, and the young woman later had to have her jaw wired shut while recovering in the hospital. Leonard was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole.
The prosecution alleged it took the work release supervisor an hour to notice Shawn Leonard was missing. The supervisor then called Jail Industries.
“The person who answered at Jail Industries, instead of just notifying the police, drove to the site to look for Shawn Michael Leonard, and that takes another hour so essentially it was two hours before authorities were notified that there was an escapee out there,” Joe Schultz, the victim’s attorney, said.
Tyler Snow, defense attorney for Universal Industrial Sales, disagrees with the timetable and asserts the authorities were notified sooner.
Schultz also said that inmates were unsupervised while at the work release program.
“We had a guy come forward and talk to us that had inside knowledge,” Schultz said. “The most disturbing thing to me was when he told us that (many) people had walked off the job site and committed crimes. This wasn’t the first time that someone had walked off the job site and committed crimes. People were using drugs and having sex at the work site. Family members were coming and visiting (the inmates) and bringing them drugs.”
“We are not aware of any unreported criminal activity being committed by work release inmates while working for (Universal Sales),” Snow said. “We are also not aware of any drug use or sexual activity by such inmates. Avoiding drugs is a condition of participation in Jail Industries, and it is our understanding that Utah County frequently performs drug tests on Jail Industries’ inmates to verify that they are complying with that condition.”
Schultz disagreed and said an informant told him drug use and crimes were not uncommon at the work release program.
“Our contention is that everyone was profiting off of these inmates. In the meantime they were under-supervised, under-screened, and instead of using some of the money to make sure that everyone was properly supervised and safety measures were in place they instead enjoyed the profits,” Schultz said.
“The legislature has established criteria for deciding which inmates can participate in the work release program,” Snow said.
“A district court judge … makes the determination as to whether a particular inmate is eligible for work release. Additionally, Utah County makes its own determination that a particular inmate is eligible to participate in Jail Industries. In Shawn Leonard’s case, two district court judges and Utah County determined that Leonard was eligible to participate in Jail Industries.”
The victim filed her lawsuit in September and plans to now appeal to the Utah Supreme Court.