ACLU SUES PRISON OVER ALLEGED SEX ABUSE
OFFICIALS FAILED TO TAKE PROPER ACTION WHEN GUARD COERCED INMATE, SUIT CLAIMS
A class-action suit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah says a Utah State Prison inmate was forced to have sex with a prison guard.
ACLU said the 3rd District Court suit alleges that former Utah State Prison Captain Albert Walles, 40, Riverton, posed as a therapist and lured inmate Kyle Harding into a private office July 7, where he coerced him into having sex with him.Walles, a 10-year veteran, resigned three days later for "personal and health reasons."
Following a July 20 investigation by Corrections Inspector General Scott McAlister, Harding was denied an attorney and told "no evidence of forcible sexual abuse" was found, ACLU attorney Ross Anderson said Thursday.
He also said Harding, 22, was warned to keep quiet about the incident.
The suit names as defendants Walles, Warden Eldon Barnes, Director of Institutional Operations Gerald Cook and Gary DeLand, executive director of the Department of Corrections.
The suit seeks compensatory damages of $200,000 under four claims of relief and $100,000 in punitive damages under two of the claims for Walles. It also seeks compensatory damages of at least $500,000 for each member of the class under two claims of relief.
"This is another evidence of them spouting a lot of hot air without any factual basis," McAlister said. "The department has done nothing wrong in this circumstance."
Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom opened an investigation in early August and two first-degree felony counts of forcible sodomy were filed against Walles on Aug. 25.
Anderson said Harding's suit would have been filed regardless of the investigation because prison officials have failed to protect inmates from assaults by other inmates and prison personnel.
In Harding's case, he said, corrections officials "have been totally irresponsible with regard to this incident."
"It is the responsibility of the Department of Corrections to prevent sexual and other physical assaults against inmates," said Michelle Parish-Pixler, ACLU acting executive director. "They have failed to provide a secure environment for inmates."
Parish-Pixler also said prison officials have failed to adequately train and monitor prison staff and "provide an effective grievance system whereby incidents of assault can be safely reported."
She said she hoped the suit would prompt courts to go to an outside agency when conducting investigations of such incidents.
"This case is a prime example of why an outside agency needs to be responsible for investigating wrongdoing at the prison," Parish-Pixler said. "Otherwise, the conflict of interest becomes too intense."
The Corrections Department has the inspector general as its advocate, she said. "We need an outside agency as an advocate for the complainants."
Anderson said Harding's complaint was one of many reports of sexual improprieties involving medical and security personnel the ACLU has received from inmates.
He said Harding has since moved to a halfway house.
McAlister said the ACLU was "just sniveling again." He said corrections officials had gotten rid of the alleged perpetrator and the inmate had not complained to prison personnel.
"All we can do is investigate and take action," he said. "This inmate never complained."
He said the department has cooperated fully with the county attorney's investigation.
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