(CN) - A woman does not have to testify about her husband's sexual abilities in an upcoming harassment trial the man faces from one of his former employees, a federal judge ruled.
Barbara Stanfield has worked as a Cook County Sheriff's Department correctional officer since 1991, with Thomas Snooks serving as her direct supervisor.
In her amended complaint, Stanfield alleged that Snooks subjected her to "offensive, unwelcome, physically and sexually abusive behavior."
Specifically, Snooks "continually" asked Stanfield out on dates and commented that he could make her job easier if she would have sex with him.
On one occasion, Stanfield claimed that Snooks called her on the radio to come into his office, and then locked the door from the inside. According to the complaint, he "ordered me to give him a leg massage. Snooks then grabbed me by the neck and arm and forced my head toward his genitals. He then pulled out his penis and tried to force me to give him fellatio."
Snooks allegedly threatened Stanfield, saying, "I can make your life miserable and I will walk out of here with $80,000," referring to his pension. Snooks then ejaculated on Stanfield, according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleged that other members of the Sheriff's Department knew about the abuse because Snooks bragged about it and "attended meetings in semen stained clothing."
Stanfield sought to depose Snooks's wife, asking that she testify as to Snooks' general health, sexual abilities, medication, financial condition and conversations he may have had with her about work. Snooks responded with a motion to quash the subpoena, arguing that the testimony is subject to marital privilege.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall granted the subpoena with respect to Snooks' sexual abilities and conversations, but denied it with respect to his health, medication and financial condition.
Although Stanfield's discovery question simply asked "whether Snooks is able to perform a sex act," the judge found that "such intimate knowledge is not mere observations (sic) by a wife of her husband's conduct."
Stanfield further argued that Snooks waived his marital communications privilege when he asserted at his deposition that he could not have performed the alleged sex act as described by Stanfield.
But Kendall said "one spouse may waive the ability to assert the marital communications privilege on his or her own behalf, but the privilege is held by both spouses, and thus its waiver by one spouse does not constitute a waiver of the privilege on behalf of the other spouse."
"That Snooks may have in his lifetime performed the same physical act on a third party does not remove the cloak of confidentiality afforded to his communicative acts with his wife throughout the decades of their marriage," she wrote.
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