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Pennsylvania Blames Prison Clerk for Her Rape by Prisoner

In response to a female secretary who was raped by a prisoner at Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution – Rockview in 2013, the State Attorney General’s office filed a pleading that blamed the woman for her rape.

As PLN previously reported, prisoner Omar Best went into a secretarial office at Rockview on July 23 at around 8:30 AM under the guise of taking out the 24-year-old clerk’s trash. He grabbed her from behind and choker her until she passed out. Best was subsequently sentenced to life in prison for her rape. [See: PLN, June 2014, p.56].

The woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, her former supervisor, and Rockview’s former superintendent, Marirosa Lamas. The suit alleged that prison officials were aware Best had previous sex offense convictions and has attempted to rape a female assistant at State Correctional Institution – Graterford. Yet, they “still allowed Omar Best to have unsupervised access to the offices of female employees.”

According to the complaint, Best was linked in 2012 by DNA testing to the 1999 abduction and rape of an 18-year-old Philadelphia woman, for which he received a 7 to 15 year sentence. In 2011, he pleaded guilty to a rape and robbery in Philadelphia and was sentenced to 15 years. A 1996 conviction from a guilty plea to indecent assault after being charged with attempted rape was the first sexual charge on his record.

Twice in the week before the rape, the victim complained to her boss that she felt uncomfortable and unsafe with best coming into her office. She was assured that best would no longer have access to the office, which was moved from a secure floor with no inmate contact to a location on a cell block. “There were no locked doors between the offices and cell blocks, including Block C where (the victim) worked, except for the copy room,” the complaint states.

Although best was convicted of rape in May and a review of the prison found numerous safety violations that forced Lamas’ ouster, the state Attorney General’s office responded to the victim’s lawsuit by blaming the victim. The senior deputy Attorney General submitted as a defense to the suit that the victim “acted in a manner which in whole or in part contributed to the events.”

 “I think it’s absolutely deplorable to blame the victim in this case.” said Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s victim advocate. “It’s not common legalese in rape cases, and it shows a significant lock of sensitivity to not understand the harm this has done to the young woman and the re-victimization that she’s going through today. In a rape case, this is plain victim-blaming.”


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