He's the Mayor of a Tiny Illinois Town — But Lawsuit Claims He's Sex Abuser Who Preyed on Incarcerated Boys

Rocky James, current Eldorado, Ill., mayor, formerly worked at Illinois Youth Center - Harrisburg

<p>Google Maps</p> IYC - Harrisburg and IYC - St. Charles

Google Maps

IYC - Harrisburg and IYC - St. Charles

Warning: This story describes graphic descriptions of sexual abuse 

A new lawsuit alleges a harrowing pattern of sex abuse inside Illinois juvenile facilities and implicates a former youth center employee who is now a small town mayor.

The lawsuit, which was obtained by PEOPLE, has nearly 100 plaintiffs and lists the state of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Corrections and/or the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice as defendants, accusing those entities of permitting rampant sex abuse spanning years.

Some of the allegations accuse Rocky James, now the mayor of Eldorado, Ill., of sex abuse from 2002 to 2010.

One of the accusers was a teen who'd been incarcerated at Illinois Youth Center (IYC) -Harrisburg, who alleged his mattress had been taken from him as punishment. In the complaint, the accuser claims James made numerous sexual comments to him and offered to give back his revoked mattress “if he masturbated him or administered oral copulation on him,” the lawsuit alleges, adding that the claimant did not comply.

Another allegation, from a separate claimant, reads, “James put his hands down [the claimant's] pants and masturbated him, and then [a correctional officer] administered oral sex on [the claimant] and sodomized him while Rocky James watched and masturbated himself."

The identity of the correctional officer, referred to in the complaint only by the nickname "Crank," is not known. According to the complaint, the accuser "expects to learn the full name and identity of his abuser through the course of discovery."

James is also accused by some of the claimants in the lawsuit of making sexual comments about their bodies. The claimants — who say James abused them — were between the ages of 13 and 17 during the time of the alleged abuse.

According to a March 2011 story in the Harrisburg Register, James, who is currently the Eldorado, Ill., mayor, was employed at the Department of Juvenile Justice at IYC - Harrisburg for many years. (In the 2011 story, he stated that he held that position for 26 years at that point.) James has been the Eldorado mayor since 2007. Eldorado is roughly 330 miles south of Chicago and has a population of less than 4,000 people.

IYC - Harrisburg is a medium-security facility for male youth, according to the John Howard Association, a prison oversight organization. According to the Illinois Department of Justice, the facility offers a "broad range of services to youth incarcerated at the facility," including educational programs, vocational training and substance abuse and mental health services.

James did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment about the allegations. The current superintendent at IYC - Harrisburg and the Illinois Department of Justice also did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

<p>Google Maps</p> Illinois Youth Center - Harrisburg

Google Maps

Illinois Youth Center - Harrisburg

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Staff members from additional IYC facilities in St, Charles, Chicago, Warrenville, Kewanee, Joliet, Murphysboro and Pere Marquette are also accused in the lawsuit. The alleged abuse ranges from inappropriate comments and touching to rape and sodomy.

A claimant in the lawsuit alleges he was abused at 12 years old by an employee at IYC - St. Charles, labeled as Abuser 1, who is not identified.

“Abuser 1 would come into [the accuser's] cell with other inmates and make the other inmates pin down [the accuser], remove his clothes and physically abuse him,” the lawsuit alleges. “Abuser 1 would sodomize [the accuser] with his fingers and allow the other inmates to sodomize [the accuser] with objects such as a toothbrush and a broom handle. This happened on multiple occasions.”

<p>AP Photo/Daily Herald, Rick West</p> Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles

AP Photo/Daily Herald, Rick West

Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles

According to the John Howard Association, IYC - St. Charles is a level 2 medium-security facility.

"Illinois' past is stained with the tears of innocent children, victims of unspeakable horrors ignored by those entrusted with their care," Todd Mathews, Lead Attorney for the Bailey Glasser Institutional Abuse litigation team, tells PEOPLE in a statement. "But today, their silence is shattered: 'No More.' No more turning a blind eye, no more excuses. Today, we demand justice for every soul scarred by the system's negligence. The time for accountability is now."

The Illinois Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment regarding the lawsuit.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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