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Three Prisoners Raped at Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion

In October 2009, news agencies reported that three female prisoners had claimed they were raped by employees at the Oklahoma Governor’s mansion. A three-month investigation by the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (ODOC) concluded the head chef and groundskeeper at the mansion had sexually assaulted the women.

The three prisoners were part of an 11-member work crew from the Hillside Community Corrections Center. The horticulture program at the prison chose them to maintain the flower beds, shrubs and other greenery at the Governor’s mansion because they were minimum security and low escape risks.

While the alleged rapes occurred between March 2008 and January 2009, the ODOC investigation did not begin until June 1, 2009. The delay was attributed to the prisoners’ fear of retribution. Upon her release, one of the women reported that she had been raped. A second prisoner made similar accusations after she was later released.

Some of the sexual assaults occurred in a storage building outside the perimeter fence that encircles the mansion’s 14-acre grounds. “My client was dragged down,” said attorney Janet Roloff. “She’s told me that she was raped and that it was a brutal bloody rape. She was raped by two individuals. One of who [sic] held her down, while the other perpetrated the act.”

The Associated Press filed a public records request, which revealed the two employees accused of raping the prisoners were executive chef Russell Humphries and groundskeeper supervisor Anthony Bobelu. Both were fired by the Department of Central Services on September 29, 2009. They maintained they were falsely accused.

However, the ODOC investigation determined that the two men had committed acts of sexual battery, forcible sodomy and rape. “If we denied them any kind of sexual thing, our work would be twice as hard,” one of the prisoners stated. “I had to dig a thirty-foot trench because I denied them.”

The Oklahoma County District Attorney investigated the claims, but announced in January 2010 that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against the former mansion employees. While sex acts may have taken place, whether they were non-consensual could not be corroborated, according to prosecutors.

“We believe that it occurred,” said ODOC spokesman Jerry Massie. “The charging is one for the district attorney’s office. Those are difficult cases, particularly if you don’t have any physical evidence.” Evidently, testimony from multiple prisoners who stated they were forcibly raped was insufficient – although such testimony is routinely used in rape prosecutions involving non-incarcerated victims.

The sexual abuse scandal followed closely on the heels of an investigation that revealed three state troopers had falsified their work hours to indicate they were guarding the Governor’s mansion when they were not.

Governor Brad Henry insisted that he and his family were safe at the mansion. Roloff said prisoners likewise should be safeguarded. “The fact that someone is a prisoner of the state puts an obligation on the state to make sure that individual is safe,” she observed. “They take away their freedom in some ways, but they must replace it with security.”

The prisoner work crew was reassigned during the investigation into the rape allegations, but has since returned to the Governor’s mansion. Mansion officials have ordered “refresher training” for employees, to remind them that they cannot have sex with prisoners – or rape them, presumably.

Sources: Associated Press, News 9, News Channel 4, The Oklahoman

 

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