Utah Supreme Court rejects lawsuit by Provo River Trail rape victim

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has ruled a woman who was raped on the Provo River Trail and savagely beaten with a cinder block cannot sue government agencies who were supposed to be watching her jail inmate attacker.

In a ruling handed down late Wednesday, the state’s top court said the woman cannot sue Utah County and the Utah County Sheriff’s Office because they are protected by governmental immunity. FOX 13 is not naming the woman because she is a victim of sexual assault.

“We… hold that the custodian of a dangerous individual has a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent that individual from injuring others. Under that standard, we conclude that the County owed (the victim) a duty,” Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Durrant wrote.

“But even though the County owed (the victim) a duty, her negligence claim is barred by the Governmental Immunity Act. Finally, because work release programs are essential to the core governmental activity of housing and rehabilitating inmates, the Act is not unconstitutional as applied in this case.”

A prison mug shot of Shawn Michael Leonard, courtesy Utah Dept. of Corrections.

A prison mug shot of Shawn Michael Leonard, courtesy Utah Dept. of Corrections.

In 2010, the woman was jogging on the Provo River Trail when she was attacked by Shawn Michael Leonard, who had walked away from a jail work release program. Prosecutors said he strangled her, bashed her face in with a cinder block and sexually assaulted her. The woman has undergone numerous surgeries to repair her face.

Leonard was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery charges.