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Jailer accused of sexual assault

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By Bryan Marshall

(Editor’s note: This story contains sexually-explicit allegations in a lawsuit filed against the Grant County jailer.)
Terry Peeples is accused of sexual assault and harassment in the latest lawsuit filed against the Grant County jailer.
Peeples, who is seeking his second term in the November election, has had previous lawsuits filed against him by at least six former employees since taking office in 2011.
A lawsuit filed in Grant County Circuit Court on July 30 by a current deputy jailer, Jessica Jump, and two former employees, Heather Hardman and Jon Thomas, is at least the third that alleges sexual harassment and/or intimidation by Peeples.
Peeples, who was out of town on vacation when the lawsuit was filed, denies the allegations of the lawsuits filed against him.
“These lawsuits are politically motivated,” he said. “Do you think it’s a coincidence that the same lawyer keeps bringing up lawsuit after lawsuit? No, it’s not. There’s a personal agenda there. Do you think it’s a coincidence that they wait until I am out of town to file them, hoping that I’m not going to be able to make a comment? It’s not a coincidence. Do you think it’s a coincidence that they are filing them right before a general election? It’s not. This is politically motivated. This is no more than a slander tactic to discredit and damage me before the election.”
Barbara Bonar, who is the attorney for Jump, Hardman and Thomas, also represents two other former employees who previously filed lawsuits against Peeples.
The most detailed and frequent allegations in the lawsuit come from Jessica Jump, who was hired immediately after Peeples took office in 2011. From the outset of her employment, Peeples allegedly began making sexually charged comments and solicitations toward her.
The sexual advances escalated and became physical, according to the lawsuit.
“The physical touching by Peeples toward Jump included but was not limited to placing his arm around Jump’s waist, neck and shoulders, as well as frequently touching her breasts, stroking her hair and ‘ogling’ her body, sometimes making sexual sounds,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that on multiple occasions Peeples would force Jump into a location at the jail without cameras to sexually intimidate and assault her, including inside a jail vehicle.
“As soon as she got in the front seat of the vehicle, Peeples began to sexually assault Jump by groping her breasts and grabbing her between her legs, touching her vaginal area,” the lawsuit states. “She could not escape.”
Jump alleges that around Dec. 29, 2011, Peeples came to her home and sexually assaulted her.
After allegedly text messaging Jump asking if she was home alone, Peeples appeared at her door in his jailer uniform, according to the lawsuit.
“As soon as Jump let him in, Peeples lunged at her, aggressively forcing himself on her sexually,” the lawsuit states. “He penetrated her while repeatedly slapping her breasts. When he finished the assault, Peeples promptly redressed into his uniform, mumbling that he needed to return to the GCDC, and left.”
The alleged assault caused painful bruising on Jump, particularly in her chest area, which she took pictures of, according to the lawsuit.
Following the incident, Jump told one or two female associates what happened, but feared disclosing the details to anyone since Peeples had allegedly changed his former friendly attitude toward Jump.
Soon thereafter, the lawsuit states that Peeples approached Jump and demanded, “You need to deny we ever had sex, I will deny we had sex, and if you say we did, I’ll make sure you look like a liar.”
A few months later, the lawsuit states that Jump told a Kentucky State Police detective, who was interviewing jail employees in an apparent criminal investigation of Peeples, about the assault.
Peeples later allegedly commanded Jump to write a complaint against the detective in order to fix the problem, claiming he was “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” in the interview.
To Jump’s knowledge, no action has been taken against Peeples in response to her reports to KSP in the spring of 2012.
However, Jump alleges that as a result of Peeples’ knowledge of her statements to KSP, Peeples has made an effort to destroy Jump’s reputation and credibility.
The lawsuit claims Peeples began telling people Jump was an alcoholic, she could not be trusted, she was crazy and she needed psychological help.
The lawsuit alleges Peeples also made sexually offensive comments about Jump’s appearance, including that she could not wear a regular uniform because of the size of her breasts and buttocks.
“Those pants are a little tight in certain areas — they make certain areas stand out, but I like the way they look,” Peeples allegedly said to Jump.
In the lawsuit, Peeples allegedly became increasingly possessive of Jump, demanding she tell him who she was dating and what she was doing in her personal time.
Peeples threatened Jump that he would terminate her employment if she did not comply to his “sexual games” and physical threats, according to the lawsuit.
Jump also alleges that Peeples frequently demanded that she write accusatory statements against other detention center employees on his behalf, based on what he told her.
As of the filing of the lawsuit, Jump was still employed at the jail.
“She will continue to work at the jail for as long as shows up, does her job and follows policies,” Peeples said when asked about Jump’s employment status. “If she doesn’t, then she won’t.”
Heather Hardman was hired in June 2011 as a part-time deputy and within months, the lawsuit alleges Peeples also began engaging in sexually charged hostile actions.
Along with making comments, Peeples allegedly would also make solicitations via flirtatious and inappropriate text messages to Hardman.
“Your priorities should be 1. school, and 2. make your boss happy,” one alleged text states, adding “I’m not hard to please.”
Peeples also allegedly began to retaliate against Hardman because of her rejection of Peeples’ advances, including demoting her deputy jailer boyfriend and illegally assigning her as night shift commander where she was in charge of 330 inmates with no male deputies to aid her in dangerous situations.
In May 2014, Hardman left the jail.
“After having endured the extremely hostile sexual harassment for almost two years, after having repeatedly complained about it to personnel both inside and outside the GCDC, and having suffered retaliation for almost a year, culminating in her extremely unsafe positioning within the GCDC while no action was ever taken against Peeples, Hardman, in fear for her life, felt she had no choice but to exit her GCDC position,” the lawsuit states.
Jon Thomas was hired as a deputy jailer in February 2011.
Thomas befriended Jessica Jump shortly after being hired and Peeples allegedly took numerous retaliatory actions against Thomas.
“Peeples placed frequent ‘write-ups’ in Thomas’ personnel file for trivial reasons, repeatedly changed his job duties, physically separated him from Jump and ostracized him from GCDC management,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that Peeples fabricated allegations that Thomas assaulted a GCDC nurse and that the jailer sent Facebook messages to Thomas’ fiance in an effort to destroy their relationship.
Eventually, Thomas was informed via telephone that he was terminated.
Peeples said he is the right person for jailer and the amount of lawsuits filed are lower than the numbers against previous administrations.
“We have reduced the amount of lawsuits,” he said. “And, over time, we will continue to reduce. Every time a new jailer comes in, they get hit hard with lawsuits to see how the jail and the county is going to respond. Then, it starts to slack off. We haven’t backed down. We have stood our ground. We are contesting and fighting every case. We have not lost a single lawsuit yet. They can make false allegations, but they haven’t been able to prove them yet.”