Todd Fort, former chief deputy of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office and former Harrisburg school board president, has filed a civil lawsuit with the Saline County Circuit Clerk against Saline County State's Attorney Mike Henshaw.
Fort, who pled guilty to charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against a 17-year-old intern at the sheriff’s office who also was a Harrisburg High School student in 2011, contends that Henshaw released to a media outlet tapes of conversations Fort had with family members while Fort was incarcerated in Jackson County jail.
At the time the tapes were made, Fort’s mother and sister had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fort’s lawsuit contends the tapes contained personal conversations involving discussions with his mother and sister about their illness and conversations he had with his 12 year old daughter and these personal conversations were released maliciously to cause Fort pain and suffering. Fort filed the suit Thursday morning.
Fort has served his time in incarceration and is now living in Harrisburg.
Fort was a veteran of 23 years in law enforcement and had been appointed chief deputy of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office in 2006, as chief deputy Fort supervised all sheriffs’ department employees except for the sheriff.
Fort states that he and Henshaw had been having disagreements about Henshaw's interaction with the sheriff’s department before Fort’s arrest.
“Henshaw really wanted to have a thumb on the sheriff’s department,” Fort said.
Fort has retained Carbondale attorney Darrell Dunham to represent him. The suit consists of three counts, intrusion upon seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, intentional infliction of emotional distress and asks for punitive damages of not less than $100,000.
“I have been a lawyer for over 40 years and I have never seen a situation like this before, where custodians of tapes would use them in this fashion, to humiliate or embarrass someone in this way,” Dunham said in a telephone interview.
As a convicted sex offender, Fort is permanently barred for employment involving contact with minors and must register as a sexual offender. Further employment in law enforcement is out of the question. Fort has lost his savings, house and pension as a result of his conviction, but has a surprisingly upbeat attitude. Though he and his wife had divorced previous to his arrest, Fort is still in contact with his wife, son and daughter on a regular basis.
“Now that the worst is behind me, I’m pretty happy and content, I still have my friends and family and a lot more support in the community then I thought I would. I’m good, I’m good,” Fort said.
States Attorney Mike Henshaw had no comment on the suit at this time, saying he had yet to consult with his attorney.