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Kentucky County Settles Prisoner Rape Suit for $1.4 Million

Grant County, Kentucky, has settled with a prisoner who was brutally raped in the county's jail for $1.4 million. The September 1, 2005, settlement was the largest to date in a series of similar lawsuits against the county.

The victim, Joshua Sester, who had just turned 18 and weighed 125 pounds, was arrested in Pendleton County on February 13, 2003, for fleeing and eluding officers after a traffic stop. At the Grant County Jail, which houses Pendleton prisoners, the victim was placed in cell 101, a general population area that also housed felons.

In the cell, a mob of prisoners stripped off the young man's clothes, carried him to the shower area, covered him in soap and/or lotion, and raped him. The attackers also smacked the victim's buttocks with jail sandals, pressed his buttocks up to the glass window between cells in an attempt to show him off to other prisoners, and forced him to perform oral sex on one or more persons.

The lawsuit contended the defendants, including Grant County Fiscal Court and Deputies Steven Kellam, Greg Wells, W. Hensley, and Chandler, knew or should have known the victim would be targeted because this type of activity had occurred previously in cell 101. Moreover, the suit alleges, an informant notified jailers of the rape while it was occurring, yet the jailers failed to intervene.

Indifference to prisoner safety is apparently commonplace at the jail. Don Nageleisen, the victim's attorney, said he is representing another man who was raped at the jail. Nageleisen further said that about 10 people had joined a suit filed in July 2005, which Nageleisen hoped to have certified as a class action.

The $1.4 million settlement was the largest of seven to date involving the jail. As of September 2005 the jail's insurance carrier had paid out nearly $1.9 million in settlements, Nageleisen said. A hefty sum, considering the 300-bed jail, which opened in 2000, cost $6.9 to build.

For their role in the attacks, three of the assailants received sentences of 5 to 15 years in prison. See: Sester v. Grant County Detention Center, USDC ED KY, Case No. 03-66-DLB.

Additional source: The Kentucky Post

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Related legal case

Sester v. Grant County Detention Center