BOISE, Idaho — A lawsuit has been filed in Idaho District Court against the Canyon County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Kieran Donahue. The lawsuit alleges discrimination based on gender, a hostile work environment, discriminatory discharge, retaliation, and whistleblower retaliation.
Former Canyon County Sheriff's Office Victim Witness Coordinator Aleshea Boals filed the lawsuit in April saying she was harassed and discriminated against based on her gender. The lawsuit alleges she was retaliated against and "constructively discharged" after she reported gender discrimination and illegal activity and objected to directives she reasonably believed violated state and federal law. Idaho Law states "each victim of a criminal or juvenile offense shall be treated with fairness, respect, dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice process."
The lawsuit filed by Boals alleges over the course of several years, there were repeated incidents of Detective Mark Taylor not believing and mistreating female sexual assault victims.
Allegations of female victim mistreatment
The lawsuit alleges one of the incidents was over the past several years when Boals became concerned about the way Taylor treated female victims. The suit states in the fall of 2020, Boals learned he did not believe a female victim had been raped by someone she knew. The detective also allegedly interviewed the woman in an interrogation room rather than in a room designated for victim interviews.
The suspect admitted to having sex with the victim, saying it was consensual, according to the lawsuit.
In the lawsuit Boals alleges Taylor yelled at the victim for lying, telling her he was closing her case "because her vagina was too small to have been raped." The victim left the interview in tears and refused to participate in the investigation and prosecution of her case, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states Taylor favored male victims. One instance Boals cites was in 2018 Taylor was investigating the sexual abuse of a teenage boy. Boals said Taylor worked with the male victim closely — talking on the phone with him frequently, taking him out to eat, buying him clothes, hygiene products and other gifts.
The violations of the rights of female victims at CCSO that are at issue in this lawsuit are bad enough. But it's even worse that the brass, including the Sheriff himself, harassed and retaliated against Ms. Boals, a long-time victim witness coordinator, after she reported those violations. Although this lawsuit was brought by Ms. Boals as a last resort, she is committed to continuing to stand up for victims' rights and trying to make sure CCSO does the same. — Kass Harstad, Attorney
Conflict escalated to Canyon County Sheriff
The suit alleges in March 2021 Boals was again concerned Taylor was not believing victims and not following protocol. Days after she reported violations of victim's rights to Donahue and two other high-ranking officials with the Sheriff's Office, Boals was called into a meeting for going outside the chain of command.
Boals says in the lawsuit she endured almost daily harassment, discrimination, and retaliation from the two high-ranking officials and was restricted from doing her job. The lawsuit alleges Boals was disciplined for not being at her desk despite performing work-related tasks at the start of her day. The suit says male employees were rarely scrutinized for leaving the office for work-related activities, even going to the gym or going for walks.
The allegation states female employees were scrutinized, and even micromanaged, when they left the office. The lawsuit alleges a female detective was harassed for going to the gym while another female detective says her day was monitored by the same high-ranking official Boals had issues with.
The lawsuit details in October 2021, Boals sent an email to Donahue in hopes it would stop the alleged harassment and retaliation as well as her concerns for protecting victim's rights. Donahue allegedly responded saying he was taking her concerns "very seriously."
“The Sheriff denies any wrongdoing and doesn’t intend to otherwise comment except through the legal process.” — Canyon County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Joe Decker
Threats and retaliations continue, result in termination
Weeks later, Boals received a letter from Donahue reiterating what the two high-ranking officials had told before, but accused her of hosting a "birthday party" for an inmate. Boals said she was conducting a victim interview with a woman who was in custody who Boals stated she believed was trafficked. Boals said the victim's birthday was the day before so she offered her a brownie with an unlit candle and a soda. Boals says offering victims food and drink was common practice.
The lawsuit alleges Donahue threatened Boals with a formal investigation and polygraph examination and he told her throwing an inmate a "birthday celebration" was reason enough for termination.
In November 2021, Boals applied for Family and Medical Leave Act at the advice of her doctor. While on leave her email access was cut off and the Canyon County Sheriff's Office instructed the Canyon County Deputies Association to change its passwords so Boals could not have access, despite being president of the association, according to the lawsuit.
In January 2022, Boals received a pre-termination letter saying her termination would be effective in two days.
Boals attorneys have asked for a jury trial. As of May 12, no hearings have been set.
Read the full complaint and demand for jury trial below: