Sexual Abuse by Oregon Jail Guard Nets Probation; Defense Attorney Blames Victim
A former Oregon jail guard was sentenced to probation for sexually abusing a female prisoner after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge; his defense attorney blamed the incarcerated victim while the prosecutor defended the light sentence. The guard, Eddie James Miller, 60, was later accused of sexually harassing a co-worker.
As previously reported in PLN, Miller’s 21-year career at the Inverness Jail in Portland, Oregon came to an end when he was accused of walking in on a 34-year-old female prisoner as she was using the bathroom in the jail’s medical unit and forcing her to perform oral sex on him on January 9, 2012 [See: PLN, April 2012, p.1].
The distraught prisoner immediately reported the incident to detectives, according to Mike Schults, a chief deputy with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities said the woman’s DNA was found on Miller, and she testified before a grand jury. On February 29, 2012, Miller was indicted on charges of official misconduct in the first degree and custodial sexual misconduct in the first degree.
The latter offense is a felony when an Oregon corrections employee or contractor engages in sexual intercourse with a prisoner; all other sexual contact constitutes the misdemeanor offense of custodial sexual misconduct in the second degree. Prisoners are not subject to prosecution, and consent is not a defense due to the power imbalance between guards and prisoners.
Miller entered a not guilty plea through his attorney, Lisa Ludwig. He was fingerprinted, photographed and booked into jail but released on pretrial supervision pending trial.
“We take these things very seriously,” said Schults. During the investigation, Miller was initially put on paid leave but later placed on unpaid leave following the indictment. He resigned in April 2012. Schults said the female prisoner was transferred to the nearby Washington County Jail for her safety.
Miller was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct in the first degree and sentenced to two years’ probation on September 25, 2012. Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Don Rees defended the plea agreement by claiming that Miller may in fact have been the victim of a scheme to obtain a cash settlement from the county.
Noting that the prisoner has a 15-year criminal history, including fraud and forgery convictions, investigators said they became suspicious of her intentions when her boyfriend and another prisoner reported that she had told them she was using Miller to get rich off the county. Several prisoners at the Washington County Jail also informed officials that Miller told them of a plan to trap another guard in a similar scheme – as if jail guards are somehow unable to resist having sex with prisoners.
When Miller was sentenced, Ludwig called the victim a “con artist” but conceded that Miller was guilty of official misconduct. In addition to probation, Miller was ordered to pay a $2,500 compensatory fine to the victim and forfeit his law enforcement certification.
Meantime, Portland attorney Jennifer Palmquist notified the county of the prisoner’s intent to file suit. She said Ludwig’s reference to her client as a con artist was nothing more than “blaming the victim.” Palmquist stated her client wants to fix a broken system, noting that jail staff did not offer her medical treatment or counseling when she reported the sexual abuse.
Meantime, after Miller was placed on leave, a former co-worker at the Inverness Jail came forward to report that he had kissed and touched her in a sexually aggressive, inappropriate and non-consensual manner.
In January 2013, the former co-worker, Shireela Kennedy, filed a $900,000 lawsuit against Miller, Multnomah County and Aramark Correctional Services, which contracts with the jail. The suit claimed that Miller began making inappropriate comments shortly after she began working at the facility in September 2011.
According to her lawsuit, Kennedy’s supervisors destroyed a written sexual harassment complaint she had filed against Miller and ignored her numerous verbal complaints. The suit also alleged that Aramark employee Eddie Climer brushed off her reports of sexual harassment.
Kennedy said she began having panic attacks, depression and difficulty sleeping following Miller’s inappropriate actions. She was terminated from her job in February 2012; since then, according to her complaint, she has suffered loss of earnings, job opportunities and other employment benefits.
Kennedy’s lawsuit was resolved in October 2013 under undisclosed terms. See: Kennedy v. Aramark, Multnomah County Circuit Court (OR), Case No. 130101276.