Douglas County officials investigate report that jail guards sexually assaulted inmates - Omaha.com
Published Friday, October 11, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 2:24 am
Douglas County officials investigate report that jail guards sexually assaulted inmates

Law enforcement officials are investigating allegations that two former guards at the Douglas County Correctional Center sexually assaulted inmates in their custody.

The investigation follows at least one other case this year in which an inmate accused another guard of sexual assault.

All three guards have resigned; none has been charged with a crime.

The allegations involve multiple victims, all of whom are female. Two of the guards are accused of acting as lookouts for each other as they had sex with inmates.

Chief Deputy Tom Wheeler confirmed that deputies visited the jail last week to check on a complaint that two correctional officers, one male and one female, were having sex with inmates.

Investigators are coordinating with prosecutors to determine whether charges will be filed in that case, Wheeler said.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said his office is looking into the matter. He declined to comment further.

It's illegal under state and federal law for a police officer or jail guard to have sex with someone under arrest or in custody. Under the state law, consent cannot be used as a defense by a corrections officer accused of having sexual contact with an inmate or parolee.

Douglas County Corrections Director Mark Foxall declined to answer detailed questions about the allegations, calling them personnel matters. But he read a short statement.

“Staff misconduct was identified,” he said. “I directed an immediate internal investigation. The investigation identified potential criminal conduct; the matter was immediately referred to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. We are cooperating fully with their ongoing investigation. The staff suspected of misconduct are no longer employed here.”

Some details emerged in interviews with law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation, however.

In the most recent case, according to a source, two guards would serve as lookouts for each other as they had sex with the inmates. The female guard is accused of having sex with three inmates, one of whom has since been deported, the source said.

Sources said the male guard had sex with one inmate on more than one occasion. The inmate, who was in jail on federal drug charges, worked on a kitchen cleanup crew. The two were caught on video entering and leaving the prison's library off the kitchen while the guards were working an overnight shift, sources said.

The incidents in that case happened in early September, Wheeler said. Jail records show that federal marshals moved one of the inmates allegedly involved to the Pottawattamie County Jail shortly after.

The two guards resigned Sept. 20. Sheriff's deputies were at the jail Oct. 3.

The allegations emerged a few months after another inmate accused a different guard of sexually assaulting her. That guard resigned in August after surveillance footage showed the two kissing, sources said.

“We addressed it, and he doesn't work here any more,” Foxall said.

No charges were filed against that guard because the evidence didn't appear to satisfy the legal threshold for “sexual contact,” Wheeler said.

Attempts to reach the guards involved were unsuccessful.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers, who proposed the law on inmate consent, said he would look into the incidents and promised to hold jail officials accountable. “This is totally inexcusable,” he said. “These people are not only vulnerable — they’re also captives.”

Contact the writer: Cody Winchester

cody.winchester@owh.com    |   402-444-1216    |  

Cody Winchester is a metro-area watchdog reporter. He covers Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

Contact the writer: Todd Cooper

todd.cooper@owh.com    |   402-444-1275

Todd covers courts and legal issues for The World-Herald.

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