Female Inmates Raped After Jailer Sells Key to Cell for $1k, Lawsuit Claims

Women being held at the Clark County Jail in Indiana allege they were the victims of a "night of terror" when male prisoners gained access to their cells after bribing a prison officer.

Female inmates say they were raped, assaulted and threatened on the night of October 23, 2021, according to a new lawsuit.

Eight women filed legal action against Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel, and a number of former and current Clark County Jail employees, on July 22.

The claims were denied by the attorney for the sheriff of Clark County, Larry O. Wilder, who told Newsweek an internal investigation had "yielded information that is in direct opposition to the allegations made in the civil lawsuit".

The women allege jail officer David Lowe was paid $1,000 by two male prisoners in exchange for access to secure areas of the prison.

Women allege abuse at Clark County jail
A stock image of the inside of a jail. Eight women have filed legal action after alleging they were sexually abused at Clark County jail in Indiana on July 22. Matias Nieto/GETTY

The following night the two detainees, along with other male prisoners, reportedly went into an area of the jail housing women and carried out several assaults.

The lawsuit states: "Numerous male detainees used the keys obtained from Lowe to enter Pods 4(E) and 4(F), where they raped, assaulted, harassed, threatened and intimidated the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, and other women, for several hours, resulting in significant physical and emotional injuries."

According to the lawsuit, the women were threatened with additional abuse if they pressed an emergency call alarm.

It further alleges no jail officers attempted to stop the assaults despite the presence of surveillance cameras.

Prison officer David Lowe was fired and arrested in the days following the alleged attacks, according to WDRB.

He has been charged with trafficking with an inmate and aiding escape, and is due to face criminal jury trial in September.

In June, a separate lawsuit was filed by 20 women against Lowe, Noel and a number of prison officers.

Speaking to WTHR, Bart Betteau, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, said: "Women were harassed, sexually assaulted, threatened and completely terrified.

"When I met with each and every one of these women, and they broke down repeatedly, you get the impression, the understanding of what these women went through."

When the first lawsuit was filed, Scottie Maples, Clark County Sheriff's Department chief deputy, said the rape allegations had been investigated internally and no charges filed.

The July lawsuit also claims female prisoners were punished after reporting their alleged abuse, with lights left on for 72 hours straight whilst pillows and blankets were confiscated.

It states: "The violation of the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights was the result not only of a single bad actor, Lowe, but also due to a systemic failure on behalf of the Clark County Sheriff who failed to properly staff the jail, train the jail officers, and supervise the jail officers to make sure they maintained adequate security at the jail."

The Clark County jail, formally called the Michael L. Becher Adult Correctional Complex, is situated about two miles north of Louisville in Jeffersonville.

According to its website, prison officers ensure inmates are "treated respectfully" and can take part in classes including the "Women's Abuse Recovery Group".

In a statement, the Clark County sheriff's attorney said there had been "unforeseeable criminal actions of a rogue corrections officer," referring to David Lowe, but denied this led to the abuse alleged in the civil case.

He added an internal investigation "seems to indicate that there was a systematic plan by individuals who were incarcerated that evening to develop the narrative that makes up the crux of the claims in the civil case" in order to "reap financial gain from the crimes of David Lowe."

In full, Wilder said: "The events of October 23rd were the result of the unforeseeable criminal actions of a rogue corrections officer.

"The individual in question chose to abandon his training, ethics and morals and made the unilateral decision to mortgage his career and future by allowing inmates access to the jail keys.

"The jail command became aware of what had taken place when a lawyer called and reported that his client had informed him that male inmates had obtained keys and had entered the women's pod the evening before.

"When this report was received an immediate investigation began. The investigation included a complete review of all the security video, recorded interviews with corrections officers, male inmates and over 40 female inmates.

"In less than 48 hours from the report David Lowe was taken into custody for his illegal conduct. However, the investigation did not end with the incarceration of Lowe but continued. The Sheriff's Detective Division has continued to interview female inmates who were present in the pod that evening and these interviews have yielded information that is in direct opposition to the allegations made in the civil lawsuit.

"Further, the investigation seems to indicate that there was a systematic plan by individuals who were incarcerated that evening to develop the narrative that makes up the crux of the claims in the civil case.

"The Clark County Sheriff and his office takes this matter seriously and continues to investigate what happened during that period of time. The safety, welfare and dignity of the inmates at the jail is important and the Sheriff has responded to the information gained from this investigation by making immediate changes to the physical structure of the jail as well as reviewing procedure and practices.

"This investigation is not over and the Sheriff is committed to insuring that nothing of this magnitude or scope every occurs again. However, the Sheriff is equally committed to defending those untruths that have been alleged by those who are attempting to reap financial gain from the crimes of David Lowe."

Update 07/28/22, 4:25 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include a statement the the Clark County sheriff's attorney.