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URBANA — Three and a half years ago, a 25-year-old inmate returned to her unit at the Decatur Correctional Center after she was raped in a dark supply closet by Timothy Ware, a 40-year-old guard who had previously fondled her and made comments about her body.

She kept quiet about the assault as ordered but told another inmate. She showered in her underwear to erase the evidence, so she wouldn't get in trouble and have to serve more time of her 14-year sentence.

It was a brutal, painful rape, but she decided to remain silent because the most important thing was to go home as soon as possible. Inmates were not believed against officers, and Ware had violated many policies involving inmates, such as entering their rooms unannounced, without consequences.

On Tuesday in Urbana, the woman won a victory, when U.S. District Judge Colin Bruce read the verdict of five women and three men as she sat a few feet away from Ware at the plaintiff's table.

“We the jury find in favor of the plaintiff against defendant, Timothy Ware, and award compensatory damages of $500,000, and punitive damages of $1 million," Bruce read aloud from the jury foreman's verdict sheet.

The jury also decided for the former inmate, who now works at a restaurant in suburban Chicago, against Ware's counterclaim, that she defamed him and caused him emotional distress.

The jury ruled in favor of Decatur Correctional Center Warden Shelith Hansbro, who was charged with failing to protect the inmate, with deliberate indifference. Hansbro sat at the defense table throughout the three-day trial with a lawyer provided by the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

A correctional officer also charged with failing to protect her by sending her to the gym at Ware's request in violation of prison policy, was also cleared of wrongdoing.

The young woman said her main reaction to the verdict was that she was glad the jurors believed her.

“He might not be criminally charged, but at least everyone knows from a jury that it happened,” she said. When asked about the monetary award she said, “I didn't think it was going to be that high.”

She said that when her attorneys, Louis Meyer and Dan Kiss, filed the lawsuit in February 2013, her main concern was going home.

“We're very pleased that the jury found Tim Ware guilty and was very fair in the reward to (the victim),” Kiss said. “We felt that we had proved the current IDOC defendants were deliberately indifferent to the safety of (the victim). But we respect the jury's decision.”

Ware is serving a 2½-year felony probation term after he was convicted in Macon County Circuit Court on Dec. 8 of official misconduct for contacting female parolees while employed at the prison. He was fired as a result of that case.

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Staff Writer

Staff Writer for the Herald & Review.