A Cook County jury has awarded $18 million to three sexual assault victims after finding that a Near West Side halfway house failed to protect them from a serial rapist who lived there.

The women sued St. Leonard’s Ministries after Julius Anderson assaulted them in 2009.

Anderson, who was sent to the St. Leonard’s halfway house at 2100 W. Warren after his release on parole, cut off his electronic monitoring device and left the facility unnoticed, according to the lawsuit.

Julius Anderson

Julius Anderson | Booking photo

Over a 24-day period, Anderson sexually assaulted the women at knifepoint in Bucktown and Lake View. Officials at St. Leonard’s allegedly didn’t know he was missing for 12 days.

A jury Wednesday found the halfway house failed to provide adequate security to monitor sex offenders and failed to warn police and residents when Anderson went missing.

“St. Leonard’s failed every step of the way,” said attorney Martin Dolan, who represented the three women. “It’s simply inconceivable that something like this could happen — with zero oversight, screening or accountability — that permanently scarred three women’s lives forever.”

Walter Boyd, executive director of St. Leonard’s, said the $18 million award is above his organization’s insurance limits. He said St. Leonard’s would appeal the judgment, which he called “inequitable in proportion to the control we had over the situation.”

He said he is sympathetic to the plight of the victims, but no testimony demonstrated the halfway house’s liability for their attacks.

“We can’t think of what we could have done differently,” he said. “We don’t have police authority. These are free citizens who are allowed to leave.”

But Dolan said he hopes the verdict will send a message to other state contractors who house sex offenders to “do a better job keeping track of them.”

Anderson, 65, is serving a 75-year sentence for the three sexual attacks. He had been placed at St. Leonard’s after completing a 30-year sentence for robbery and sexual assault.