Jul. 25—JEFFERSONVILLE — Eight more women have joined to file a federal lawsuit against Clark County officials claiming they were the victims of harassment and sexual crimes including rape after male inmates gained access to their jail pods.
It's the second lawsuit filed stemming from the arrest of former Clark County corrections officer David J. Lowe. He was arrested and charged in October after authorities said he sold an access key to a male inmate for $1,000. Lowe's criminal case is slated for a trial this fall.
In June, attorneys representing 20 female inmates filed a federal lawsuit stating they were victims of sexual crimes that occurred after male inmates used the key to access their pods.
The latest lawsuit was filed Monday in the Southern District of Indiana/U.S. District Court by Carmel attorneys Stephen Wagner and Laura Swafford. It details complaints from eight female inmates who are seeking a jury trial and damages.
As with the initial lawsuit, the filing lists Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and Lowe as defendants, as well as "unknown" jail officers.
Attorneys claim in the lawsuit that on Oct. 23, 2021 Lowe provided the keys to two males, which gave them access to interior areas of the jail. Over that night and early the following morning, according to the lawsuit, "numerous male detainees" used those keys to access the female pods.
"The men, who covered their faces so they could not be identified, were yelling and threatening to harm the women if they called for help or pressed the emergency call button," attorneys state in the lawsuit.
At least two women were raped during the incident, including one of the women represented in the latest lawsuit, attorneys stated in the court filing.
Attorneys said female inmates suffered significant physical and emotional injuries as a result of the incident. They lay out a case alleging that the attacks occurred over several hours.
"That means there are people not doing their jobs," Wagner said in a phone interview Monday. "Officers were either not patrolling or not monitoring the video surveillance cameras."
Lowe is named in the lawsuit because he sold the keys, but Noel and unnamed officers are also included because there was a lack of oversight and proper management of the jail, which allowed the assaults to occur, Wagner said.
Wagner anticipates additional officers will be named in the lawsuit, as he said "unnamed" is serving as a placeholder. He also believes the two lawsuits will be combined into one federal case.
When the initial lawsuit was filed last month, Scottie Maples, chief deputy for the Clark County Sheriff's Department, said the department doesn't comment on pending litigation. He reiterated that Lowe was arrested the same night that authorities were made aware of the situation.
"The sheriff's office has always said that if someone is found to be corrupt, we will criminally charge them," Maples said.
Attorneys representing the eight women called Oct. 23, 2021 a "night of terror."
As with the other lawsuit, attorneys claim that female inmates were punished after the incident and lost their "dark privileges," with jail officials leaving the lights on for 72 straight hours.
Attorneys in both lawsuits state that female inmates had personal items confiscated following the incident and saw normal privileges suspended.
"In this situation you have really a complete breakdown of the system," Wagner said.