Jackson County settles lawsuit in sex abuse case

The Jackson County Legislature approved a settlement payment Monday that will end its involvement in a lawsuit brought by a woman who, while a minor in 2007, was sexually abused by a sheriff’s deputy.

In exchange for dropping all claims against the county and two former officials in the sheriff’s department, the woman who brought the suit will receive $415,380.

The suit remains pending, however, against former deputy Steve Burgess, who forced a 15-year-old girl to perform a sex act on him in Hayes Park after taking her into custody for an alleged curfew violation.

Burgess is serving a 14-year federal prison sentence on a civil rights charge after initially receiving probation in Jackson County Circuit Court, where he pleaded guilty to statutory sodomy and deviate sexual assault. Federal prosecutors wanted to send a “strong message” that civil rights violations would not be tolerated.

The lawsuit also alleges a climate within the sheriff’s department at the time where sexually improper conduct was condoned or not taken seriously by higher-ups.

Mike Sharp, the current sheriff, said all that transpired before he was elected in 2008, but on Monday he called the incident “a black eye” for the department.