The inmate was so desperate for help that she attempted to write the words on her jail cell wall, in her own blood: “God, please help me.”
On her final day in the jail, she was found naked in her cell, crying and mumbling, asking for her mother to hold her, according to a lawsuit she brought Friday. The inmate, a 38-year-old Cincinnati woman, claims that during her 11 days in the Warren County Jail, at least two corrections officers raped her. On one occasion, they assaulted her with so much force that they “shattered” her shoulder bones.
In the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, the woman sued two corrections officers — one by name, one as a John Doe — along with seven nurses, including the jail’s health services administrator.
The woman was held at the jail in May 2013, after turning herself in on a four-year-old warrant for deception to obtain drugs. The lawsuit alleges the jail’s nurses refused to give the woman her prescribed medicine for her epilepsy, causing her to experience seizures and withdrawal, leaving her debilitated in her jail cell. Incapacitated and unable to defend herself, her jailers allegedly Tased her, took away her clothing, turned off her running water and forced her to drink out of the toilet.
“She was left naked, covered in her blood and feces,” the lawsuit states.
In a statement, Warren County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Barry Riley said the office does not comment on pending legal matters. and believes in pursuing legal matters through the courts, not the media.
“However, none of the citizens of Warren County should take our silence about the lawsuit filed by one of our former inmates as an indication that there is any truth to her allegations,” Riley said. “We look forward to defending this case to a conclusion.”
The Washington Post is withholding the name of the female inmate because she is the victim of an alleged sexual assault.
When the woman was admitted to the jail on May 3, 2013, she was screened for medical conditions, and informed medical staff of her epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, battered woman syndrome and depression. The suit, filed by attorney Jennifer L. Branch, lists the names of seven nurses who allegedly failed to provide the woman with any anti-seizure medications, even lying to the head of the jail and the woman’s attorney when they said they were giving the woman her medications.
Her withdrawal and untreated epilepsy led her to experience increased frequency of seizures, anxiety and depression, the suit claims. After four days in the jail, she became too ill to call her family or attend a bond hearing. When the jail’s doctor ordered that she be given medications — including an anticonvulsant to treat her seizures — the nurses did not carry out the doctor’s orders, according to the suit.
During a visit from her lawyer’s paralegal, the woman was rigid, staring blankly ahead, unblinking and unable to walk. On May 9, the lawsuit claims, she was found naked in the shower room, staring completely unresponsive, unable to communicate, pupils dilated, mouth open, eyes rolled back in her head. After seven days of deteriorating in the jail, the woman was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Tests taken at the hospital showed there was sperm in her urine — an indication that she must have had sexual intercourse while at the jail. Despite obtaining the lab results, none of the jail’s nurses alerted security to the findings, or took any actions to protect the woman from further sexual assault, according to the woman’s claim. Days later, she had unexplained blood on her clothing, but a rape exam could not be performed because she was “psychologically unable to be evaluated,” according to the lawsuit.
The woman claims she was raped by three corrections officers, although she was only able to identify and name one, after drawing a sketch of her alleged perpetrator while in treatment at a rape crisis center after leaving the jail. The sketch closely resembled the named corrections officer, who in an earlier lawsuit, raised “consent” as a defense, according to court records.
The corrections officers allegedly held the woman facedown as they assaulted her, the woman claims. On one occasion, as she lay on her bunk on her stomach, naked, at least two corrections officers allegedly climbed on her and raped her. During one assault, she experienced a seizure and bit her tongue. Her orthopedic surgeon said bone shattered on her shoulder was caused by blunt-force trauma consistent with sexual assault and would later have to be surgically treated, the suit says.
“In her cell she’s put on her stomach. Three different officers in uniform are present,” the woman’s lawyer, Branch, told WCPO on Monday. “She can see parts of them and can hear their voices and she knows what they did to her.”
They covered her cell window with black garbage bags in an attempt to hide their actions, since the woman was on suicide-watch and was housed in an area where she could be observed every 10 minutes.
“Her incoherence, lack of consciousness, and inability to communicate due to her untreated medical conditions left her vulnerable and unable to defend herself from rape or sexual assault,” her lawyer wrote in the lawsuit.
In her final days in the jail, the woman had become catatonic, psychotic and suicidal. She would cry uncontrollably, the lawsuit stated.
The woman is suing not only to seek “fair compensation” but also to make sure “no one else is tortured at the Warren County Jail,” her lawyer wrote.
Once the sexual assault was reported, Warren County Sheriff’s Office investigated, but did not collect forensic evidence from her clothing, bed or cell, according to the suit. The jail disposed of her plastic mattress, which would have contained DNA and other forensic evidence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the alleged assault, but has been unable to gather sufficient forensic evidence to file any criminal charges, the lawsuit states.
On the morning of May 14, after 11 days incarcerated, the jail placed the woman in shackles, handcuffs and a belly chain and transferred her to a Cincinnati psychiatric facility for evaluation, where she was diagnosed with psychosis related to the trauma of the sexual assault she endured at the Warren County Jail, according to the lawsuit. She was treated and found stable enough to be released two months later, on July 11, 2013.
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