BLOOMINGTON -- A former McLean County jail correctional officer was acquitted Wednesday of sexual misconduct and intimidation of three female inmates.
Robert Hall, 37, of Normal was charged with threatening one inmate and sexual misconduct with two others when he worked at the jail in 2007 and 2008.
Hall hugged his lawyer David Rumley after the not guilty verdicts were read by Judge James Souk. The panel deliberated about two hours.
Rumley said he believes the testimony of the seven women failed to convince the jurors, who toured the jail during the three-day trial.
"It was a lack of proof. There was no objective proof and the statements of the inmates didn't make sense. I think the jury got it right," said Rumley.
Assistant State's Attorney Bill Workman attributed the acquittals to the long delay in bringing the 2008 case to trial and the fact that the alleged victims have criminal records, some of them extensive.
"It took a while to get this case to trial and time benefits the defense," said Workman.
McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery noted similar issues with the jury's decision.
"Custodial sexual misconduct legislation was enacted to protect individuals from being subjected to abuse while in custody. This was a difficult case for the state's attorney's office because their witnesses were at one time incarcerated and I believe the jury couldn't get beyond that issue and look at the witnesses as victims," said the sheriff.
In closing arguments Wednesday, Workman asked jurors to keep in mind that the women were accused but not convicted of charges when they were in jail. The county has a duty to protect people held in custody, said the prosecutor.
Rumley questioned why the women did not report Hall's alleged conduct to jail authorities. Police learned about the allegations after one of the women wrote a letter to a male inmate at the jail.
Hall was charged after the women were interviewed in prison.
One of the former inmates acknowledged that she has filed a federal lawsuit related to the alleged jail incidents.