Deputy sheriff subject of sexual harassment lawsuit


By Justin Wier

jwier@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A woman filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against a Mahoning County deputy sheriff who officials say received discipline after an administrative investigation.

The lawsuit claims deputy sheriff Eric Harris continued to contact a woman he met while she was in jail on a drug offense.

He later propositioned her for sex, sent her obscene photographs of himself and exposed himself to her, according to the lawsuit.

Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said he had not seen the lawsuit, but the woman filed an internal affairs complaint with his office which resulted in Harris’ suspension.

“We investigated it and deemed that it was not criminal behavior, but it was inappropriate behavior that he had done while he was off duty,” Greene said. “We suspended him for 80 hours.”

The sheriff also notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which removed Harris from a task force.

The lawsuit claims the deputy met the 35-year-old woman while she served time on a drug charge in early 2016.

He continued to contact her and the purported sexual harassment occurred in October 2017, according to the lawsuit.

The woman entered Braking Point Recovery Center in Austintown as a condition of her probation. When Braking Point closed, the lawsuit said she contacted Harris for assistance in finding a new drug-treatment facility.

Harris picked her up and told her he would get a hotel room, according to the lawsuit. When she objected, he took her to his Boardman home.

The lawsuit claims the deputy asked her to have sex with him. When she refused, he asked her to watch him pleasure himself.

A few days later, the lawsuit says he texted her a picture of his genitalia.

The next day he offered to give her $80 to pay for her car insurance, according to a lawsuit. It alleges that he demanded she get in his car and exposed himself to her.

The lawsuit, filed by Atty. David Engler, seeks $1.5 million in damages.

“The sexually charged actions would be considered by a reasonable person to be ‘outrageous,’” The lawsuit argues. “[The woman] suffered physical injuries, severe trauma, mental and psychological injuries and humiliation.”

It claims Harris violated the woman’s constitutional rights; Harris’ actions constituted assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional harm; and Mahoning County failed and refused to investigate Harris’ conduct or discipline Harris, which is contradicted by the sheriff’s statements and actions.

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