Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Texas Prison Guard Charged with Raping Male Prisoner; Prisoner Files §1983 Complaint

Texas Prison Guard Charged with Raping Male Prisoner; Prisoner Files §1983 Complaint

Nathan Essary, a slightly built 22-year-old prisoner, was gang-raped at the Rogelio Sanchez State Jail near El Paso, Texas. Following the rape, Essary was transferred to the John Montford Psychiatric Facility in Lubbock for treatment. Then, in May 2001, Essary was moved to the O. L. Luther State Prison at Navasota, Texas, where he was assigned to work in the laundry.

Michael Chaney, then a prison guard at Luther, worked as a laundry manager and was Essary's supervisor. Chaney, widely known for sexually harassing prisoners, began paying unwelcome attention to Essary. Although other prisoners had earlier and repeatedly filed grievances and sexual assault complaints against Chaney,

Jerry Barrett, warden at the Luther prison, failed to take reasonable measures to prevent Chaney from continuing his sexually aggressive practices or from inflicting harm on the prisoners under his control.

Chaney continued his inappropriate behavior toward Essary by making sexually charged remarks, kissing him, and grabbing Essary by the buttocks and genitals. Chaney warned Essary that if he complained, he would concoct false disciplinary charges and ruin Essary's chances for parole.

Chaney assigned Essary to work as a janitor in the prison laundry, a job that required him to stay late and clean up after the other prisoners had returned to their cells. Early in October 2001 on an evening when Chaney and Essary were the last two people in the laundry, Chaney locked the doors, pushed Essary into the sergeant's office, and ordered Essary to masturbate him.

Chaney warned Essary that if he failed to follow the order, Chaney would write a false disciplinary charge. Essary complied with Chaney's order and, after Chaney ejaculated, Essary used his handkerchief to wipe up Chaney's ejaculate. Essary later sent the handkerchief to the U.S. Attorney in Houston.

A week later while he was again working late as the janitor, Chaney called Essary into the captain's office and demanded sex. When Essary refused, Chaney said he was good friends with gang members at Luther and would put money on gang members' accounts as payment to have Essary killed.

Essary was terrified. He complied with Chaney's demand for oral sex. When Chaney ejaculated, Essary again used his handkerchief to capture some of the ejaculate.

On October 31, 2001, Essary met with two psychologists at the Luther prison. One of the psychologists, Mr. Howe, acknowledged receiving complaints about Chaney from other prisoners. Howe summoned warden Jerry Barrett. Essary pleaded with Barrett for help but Barrett ignored him.

Later, Chaney came to Essary's cell and ordered him to come to work. That evening, Chaney sent other laundry workers to their cells, then pushed Essary into the captain's office where he kissed him on the face and mouth, ordered him to "get hard," and forced Essary to masturbate him. Later, Essary was given a job-change to the medical squad.

On May 30, 2002, following an analysis of DNA evidence, Michael Chaney was indicted on one count of aggravated sexual assault and improper sexual activity with a person in custody. Chaney is no longer employed as a Texas prison guard.

On October 7, 2002, Essary filed suit in U.S. District Court under 42.USC §1983. Essary complained of sexual assault by Chaney and failure to protect by Barrett. Chaney seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against both defendants, attorneys' fees, and demands a jury trial.

Margaret Winter, Associate Director of ACLU's National Prison Project in Washington DC, is lead attorney for Essary. Winter is assisted by attorneys Craig Cowie and Amy Fettig of the ACLU Foundation in Washington DC. Austin attorney Meredith Rountree, the dynamic leader of the ACLU's Texas Prison and Jail Accountability Project, is also a member of Essary's team.

The Essary complaint follows another Texas prisoner's sexual harassment complaint which was filed in April 2002 by Roderick Johnson. [PLN, Oct. `02, page 20.] As with Essary, Johnson is being ably assisted by attorneys from the ACLU. See: Essary v. Chaney, H-02-3822, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, 2002.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Essary v. Chaney