More than two dozen female detainees are suing Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and current and former members of his jail staff, alleging they were attacked by male inmates during “a night of terror” that occurred after a corrections officer sold access keys last fall.
On Monday, eight unnamed individuals filed a lawsuit in the Indiana Southern District Court against Noel, former community corrections officer David Lowe and a group of “unknown jail officers” regarding an incident that allegedly occurred in October at the Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville.
The lawsuit claims Lowe sold two male inmates access keys to the interior of the jail in exchange for a payment of $1,000, which allowed the individuals access to “numerous restricted areas in the Jail, including Pods 4(E) and 4(F) that housed women.”
According to the complaint, on the night of Oct. 23, 2021, and into the morning of Oct. 24, 2021, “numerous” male detainees used the keys obtained from Lowe to gain access to the female pods, where they “raped, assaulted, harassed, threatened and intimidated” the plaintiffs as well as other women “for several hours.”
The lawsuits states at least two women were raped during the incident, including one of the plaintiffs.
Additionally, the complaint alleges the women were punished after the incident, including having their “dark privileges” removed, which meant the lights were left on for 72 hours straight.
For relief, the women are seeking damages as well as a jury trial.
Lowe was arrested in October after he told a sheriff’s department investigator that he agreed to the deal with an inmate, WDRB reported.
According to court records, Lowe has been charged with Level 5 felony aiding escape, Level 6 felony official misconduct and misdemeanor trafficking with an inmate. The criminal case in Clark Circuit Court 1, State of Indiana v. David Jason Lowe, 10C01-2110-F5-000262, is scheduled for a jury trial on Nov. 1.
In the federal case filed Monday, Stephen M. Wagner and Laura Walker Swafford of the Indianapolis law firm Wagner Reese LLP are listed as attorneys for the plaintiffs.
As of Indiana Lawyer deadline on Wednesday, the defendants were listed as proceeding pro se.
Wagner said the complaint currently lists “unnamed officers” as defendants because there are still “some serious questions to answer” as to why nobody stopped the alleged attacks over the course of multiple hours.
Monday’s lawsuit is the second to be filed in federal court regarding the alleged incident. On June 21, 20 female detainees at the Clark County Jail filed a similar complaint, but included their full names in court records.
Wagner said the two lawsuits — which include similar allegations — could be combined into one case.
The defendants in the June case — Lowe and “unnamed officers of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department” — are listed as proceeding pro se while the plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from multiple firms in Jeffersonville and New Albany.
While he has litigated against jails for years, Wagner said has never seen a case quite like this one.
“How could this happen at a 400- to 500-person jail where there are multiple officers on duty who have obligations to patrol the jail and watch the surveillance video?” Wagner asked. “Why did no one step forward to stop these attacks?”
“… It’s just hard to imagine,” he continued. “These women were just terrified. They were hiding under their sheets, they were hiding under their beds, they were hiding in the bathroom. … There were so many male assailants, and it was over such a long period of time that they couldn’t hide. I’ve never seen anything to this degree.”
The Clark County Jail has been the subject of international attention in recent years, as it was featured in Seasons 1 and 2 of the A&E TV program “60 Days In,” where volunteers are incarcerated as undercover inmates and are tasked with obtaining evidence of possible illegal activities. According to A&E, inmates, guards and most jail officials aren’t aware of the undercover individuals.
The show highlighted issues of drug use and trafficking, prostitution and violence in the jail, and multiple corrections officers were fired as a result of the events witnessed by the participants, according to Business Insider.
Noel, elected in 2014, was sheriff when the 2016 show debuted.
Wagner said he recently learned that multiple cameras were left installed from the TV series, so there could be even more video surveillance than at a normal jail because of the program.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to a request for comment by IL deadline.