Trial date set in trans rape case

After lengthy delays, a jury trial has been sheduled in the case of Jules M. Williams, a trans woman who allegedly was raped in 2015 by a cellmate at the Allegheny County Jail.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. Horan of the Western District of Pennsylvania recently announced the trial date as 9 a.m. April 18 in Courtroom 8A of the U.S. Court House, 700 Grant Street in Pittsburg. 

More than a dozen witnesses are expected to testify, according to court records.

Williams, 41, claims she was raped in October 2015 by a cellmate who is a dangerous sex offender. As a trans woman, she urged jail officials to provide her with a private cell, to no avail, according to court records.

Instead, she was housed with Djamal Eleam, who repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted her over a four-day period. Williams was confined to a cell with Eleam for 23 hours each day, according to court records.

Her alleged ordeal resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and her 2017 federal lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages from Allegheny County.

In her lawsuit, Williams claims the county violated her constitutional rights when housing her with Eleam. Eleam could not be reached for comment.

Williams has undergone extensive gender-affirmation surgery, yet that didn’t stop county officials from housing her with a male predator, according to court records.

Williams shared a cell with Eleam from Oct. 1 – 4, 2015, despite her protests. Eleam, 38, is a lifetime registrant sex offender under Megan’s Law, according to court records.

“At all relevant times, Eleam was a known predator to [Allegheny County] corrections staff,” according to a court filing. “Ms. Williams was thus placed into the cell with Eleam where she was housed for at least 23 hours per day with a convicted male sex offender.”

Williams sought assistance from jail staff but was ignored. Local law-enforcement officials declined to investigate her rape allegations. Finally, about 6:10 p.m. on Oct. 4, 2015, Eleam was removed from Williams’ cell and transferred to a different cell. No reason was provided for his sudden transfer, according to court records.

Video-surveillance footage that might have captured the alleged rape and sexual assaults by Eleam was destroyed, according to court records.

William is seeking compensation for pain and suffering, including “any such emotional and mental harm that she is reasonably certain to experience in the future,” according to a court filing.

Williams attorneys are seeking to preclude her prior criminal history from being discussed during the upcoming trial, including her sex-work history. “[I]t is more likely than not that such testimony would elicit only an emotional response from the jury and that [Williams] would be unfairly prejudiced as a result,” Williams’ attorneys asserted, in a court filing. 

However, a ruling by Horan on their request to preclude such testimony was pending as of presstime.

Williams is requesting a jury trial. Initially, a jury trial was supposed to be held in November. But it was postponed due to the sudden illness of an expert witness. Williams’ attorneys produced an alternate expert witness, but county officials said they needed more time to prepare for the new expert witness. Williams’ attorneys opposed the postponement, claiming the lengthy delay was worsening Williams’ PTSD. However, Horan granted the postponement, without elaborating on her reasoning. 

Neither side had a comment for this story.