3 Ill. COs facing lawsuits for social media posts

The three officers have been put on leave, pending further investigation

By Muri Assunção
New York Daily News

Three officers who work for the Illinois Department of Corrections are facing lawsuits following accusations of mocking LGBTQ inmates on social media.

Two of them — correctional Officer John Mercks and correctional Sgt. Joseph Dudek — are named as defendants in a lawsuit brought by Strawberry Hampton.

Hampton is a transgender woman who sued the department of corrections over alleged abuse when she was incarcerated, according to Injustice Watch, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that focuses on the intersection of justice and equality.

She claimed she was the victim of repeated sexual assault and beatings while incarcerated in men’s prisons across the state. After a year-long legal battle, she was finally transferred to a women’s prison in December, 2018, six months before her release.

According to Injustice Watch, Merck has shared a series of posts mocking transgender people and women, and some with claims of sexual assault or physical violence.

He’s also also used offensive language towards African-Americans and LGBTQ people, and shared anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist memes.

Dudek, the other man named in the lawsuit, is also identified as one of the men who assaulted Hampton. He has allegedly shared Facebook memes making fun of online support for Muslims refugees, gays, and transgender people.

The third man, Sgt. Gary Hicks, is being accused of an overall message of hatred towards minority communities. He has allegedly reposted Islamophobic messages, and shared a meme that deemed homosexuality as a sin, as well as another image showing soldiers in front of a tank, wrapped in a confederate flag.

Hicks also wrote a comment online, according to the outlet, expressing desire in fighting, in case a civil war or government overthrow unfolds in the U.S.

The three officers have been put on leave, pending further investigation.

The department “takes these matters very seriously and has zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind. The employees are on leave pending active IDOC investigations into these posts. Based on the result of these investigations, the department will take all appropriate disciplinary action,” Lindsey Hess, an IDOC spokeswoman, said in a statement.

©2019 New York Daily News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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