Public defenders file lawsuit over harassment by inmates

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CHICAGO – Female public defenders have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in Chicago, saying Cook County officials failed to protect them from inmates who masturbate during jail visits and at courthouse holding cells.

The federal lawsuit describes encounters in which detainees masturbate and leer at lawyers. It seeks class action status on behalf of women working for the Public Defender’s office, including more than 200 of 400 staff attorneys.

A spokesman for Chief Judge Timothy Evans declined comment, citing state Supreme Court rules barring judges from commenting on pending cases.

A spokeswoman for Public Defender Amy Campanelli said the office hadn’t yet received an official copy of the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

More than 200 detainees have been charged with indecent exposure since January. Public defenders have filed 20 complaints about detainees.

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