Former victim-witness worker just won $425K in sexism claim against this Idaho county

The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Kieran Donahue have agreed that the county will pay a former employee $425,000 after she sued them for harassment and gender discrimination.

Aleshea Boals, a former Canyon County victim witness coordinator, sued the sheriff and his office last year after she left the department in January 2022. She said she endured harassment and discrimination from her supervisors and Donahue based on her gender, and was retaliated against for reporting gender discrimination and illegal activity about how deputies treated female victims.

As part of the settlement, which was announced Monday in a news release from Boals’ lawyers, the Sheriff’s Office also agreed to secure funding to conduct additional victim-services training in Canyon County.

The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately comment on the settlement after an email from the Idaho Statesman.

The Sheriff’s Office and Donahue were represented in court by Bruce Castleton of Castleton Law in Boise. According to court documents, the office and Donahue “deny each and every allegation” in Boal’s complaint.

Boals created the Canyon County Victim Witness Unit in 2006 and worked as a coordinator for 15 years.

“Victim-witness coordinators have a unique position in the criminal justice system,” Boals said in the release. “They are the dedicated individuals walking crime victims through their darkest days. I love my field, and I loved my job at CCSO (Canyon County Sheriff’s Office). I was proud of the victim services provided by CCSO, and in my 15 years there, I had rarely seen a victim being mistreated.”

Former Canyon County Victim Witness Coordinator Aleshea Boals
Former Canyon County Victim Witness Coordinator Aleshea Boals

Boals said that in 2020, she noticed female victims were being mistreated, called liars and unfairly interrogated, mostly by a single sheriff’s detective.

“This mistreatment was against both the Idaho Constitution and Idaho statute, and I reported it to my superiors,” Boals said. “I thought that would be the end of it, but the mistreatment of female victims continued, and the detective who was responsible for most of the mistreatment was promoted.”

In her lawsuit, Boals said there was at least one circumstance where the detective, Mark Taylor, chose not to believe a victim who said she had been raped by someone she knew, despite having defensive wounds. Taylor allegedly “yelled at the victim for supposedly lying, and he told her that he was closing her case because her vagina was too small to have been raped. The victim left the interview in tears, and she refused to participate further in the investigation and prosecution of her case,” according to the lawsuit.

In Castleton’s response to Boal’s complaint, he wrote that during “one investigation Detective Taylor did not believe a victim’s account of an alleged sexual assault based on the information presented to him.”

Taylor was employed by the sheriff’s office as of June 2023 according to records obtained by the Statesman.

Castleton did not immediately respond to an email or phone call request for comment from himself or Taylor.

Boals said she tried to get her supervisors involved, but they began to retaliate against her by setting limitations on her that inhibited her ability to work with victims. They also harassed and discriminated against her, the lawsuit said.

“After several months of this, I realized that CCSO would continue to mistreat female victims and would continue to retaliate against me,” Boals said in the release. “After I left CCSO, I knew that the only chance I had to ensure that female victims are treated with dignity and respect was to file my lawsuit. I could not ask a victim to have the courage to come forward and face their abuser if I did not have the courage to stand up for the victim myself.”

The Boise law firm Strindberg Scholnick Birch Hallam Harstad Thorne represented Boals. The firm’s statement said the lawyers were “honored to have represented Ms. Boals as she continues to strive for victims’ rights in Idaho.”

District Court Judge Amanda Brailsford accepted the settlement on Tuesday, according to court documents.

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