Ex-jail officer charged with selling jail keys; female inmates sue alleging sexual assault by male inmates
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WAVE) - A federal lawsuit has been filed by 20 women against the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana, a former Clark County corrections employee and other unnamed members of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, claiming the women were sexually assaulted by male inmates while being held at the Clark County Jail.
The lawsuit said the incidents happened on October 24, 2021 and lasted for several hours.
According to the suit, David Lowe was working as a correctional officer on the night in question when he agreed to allow male inmates access to a key which gave them the ability to get inside the female inmates housing pods.
Lowe is facing criminal charges of trafficking with an inmate, aiding escape and official misconduct. He was seen on surveillance video allowing male inmates to leave their secure pod and enter a jail office located just outside the pod. Two male inmates were recorded on video taking items from the office, and concealing them inside their clothing and returning to the pod.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Bart Betteau, said the Clark County Sheriff didn’t do enough to protect the women involved.
“The Sheriff didn’t take care of business, didn’t have in place proper policies and procedures to protect these women,” Betteau said. “And then, even if the policies and procedures weren’t appropriate, there should have been something to make sure this stopped immediately. Immediately.”
The women said around 11:30 p.m., two male inmates came into the female pods and made threats, which included killing them, if they pressed the emergency call button for the officers.
When questioned, Lowe admitted that an inmate, whom he identified as Jerry Evans, offered him $1,000 if Lowe would allow Evans and other inmates into the Pod Office to get jail keys.
After leaving the female inmates area, the lawsuit states the original two inmates returned and had other male inmates with them.
At least two female inmates were raped, according to the lawsuit. Other female inmates were allegedly grabbed, groped, exposed to male genitalia, and had sexual and threatening statement made to them.
The male inmates left after several hours when a female inmate hit the emergency button and began screaming for the correctional officers.
“And all this time, no intervention from the jail,” Betteau said. “Over a number of hours, no intervention from the jail. Nothing seen on cameras, nothing is seen by jail officers doing routine checks? You can’t imagine, none of us can imagine who weren’t there, how awful this really was.”
One of the responding officers opened the door and turned on the lights. The lawsuit says the officer informed the female inmates they had lost their “dark” or lights out privileges. The lights in the female pods remained on for the next 72 hours, the lawsuit says.
Over the next several days, the lawsuit says the women were placed on lockdown and taken to holding cells to be questioned. The lawsuit also alleges the women had personal items - which included razors, pillow, blankets, and colored pencils - removed during a shakedown search of the female pods.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs question how thoroughly the Clark County Sheriff investigated the incident.
“I don’t know I would use the word cover up,” attorney William Perry McCall III said, “but I think it was neglected to the extent that they hoped it would go away.”
The lawsuit is demanding a trial by jury.
Lowe is scheduled to go on trial on his felony charges September 20.
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