Trans litigant who alleged jailhouse rape will receive $300,000

Jules Williams (center) at a press conference at the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

Trans woman Jules M. Williams is poised to receive $300,000 from Allegheny County to resolve her federal lawsuit alleging she was raped in 2015 by a cellmate at the county jail.

The nine-page settlement agreement was executed on May 24. Under its terms, Williams will receive $300,000 from the county within 90 days. Additionally, Williams agrees to not publicly disparage county officials. However, she retains her right to advocate for general reform relating to the county and its jail. Moreover, the law firm of O’Brien, Coleman & Wright LLC will finalize details with county officials so that Williams’ legal fees & costs are covered by the county. 

If both sides cannot reach an agreement on the payment of Williams’ legal fees and costs, the court will intervene to determine the payment amount the county is responsible for, under the settlement.

County officials don’t acknowledge any wrongdoing regarding the treatment of Williams. Additionally, Williams must pay taxes on the $300,000 she receives from the county, under the settlement.

Williams, 42, of Butler, Pa., claimed 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 A. 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 sought an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages from Allegheny County.

In her lawsuit, Williams claimed the county violated her constitutional rights when housing her with Eleam. Eleam couldn’t 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 to Oct. 4, 2015, despite her protests. Eleam, 39, 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.

Prior to the settlement, U.S. District Judge Marilyn J. Horan of the Western District of Pennsylvania had scheduled a jury trial for 9 a.m. April 18 in Courtroom 8A of the U.S. Court House, 700 Grant Street in Pittsburg.

More than a dozen witnesses were expected to testify, if a settlement hadn’t been reached, according to court records.

William was 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.

Sara J. Rose, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, was pleased with the settlement. “We’re pleased the county was willing to settle the case,” Rose told PGN. “This settlement protects Ms. Williams from the trauma she would have experienced by having to go through a trial. This monetary settlement will go a long way in helping Ms. Williams get back on her feet. We’re happy the county was willing to pay a substantial amount of money. I think the amount of money recognizes Ms. Williams did suffer serious harm when she was in the Allegheny County Jail.”

Rose added: “The Allegheny County Jail has made significant improvements to its policies for transgender people and other vulnerable individuals since Ms. Williams was sexually assaulted in 2015. We are hopeful those changes will protect people incarcerated there in the future.”

Amie M. Downs, a spokesperson for Allegheny County, had no comment regarding the settlement.