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$55,000 Settlement for Federal Prisoner Repeatedly Raped By Guard

On November 20, 2003, a federal prisoner settled a lawsuit she filed against the United States, a guard, and the warden at a federal prison in San Diego on a claim that she was repeatedly raped by a guard and that the warden failed to take any corrective action. Documents relating to this case were just recently released by the government pursuant to a longstanding Freedom of Information Act request filed by PLN.

Lucia Seidner was a prisoner at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego (MCC-San Diego) in 2002 when she claimed that guard Anthony Buccella entered the room where she was sleeping alone and on two different occasions "through fear, force and intimidation, and acting under color of authority as a federal officer, raped Ms. Seidner," the complaint reads. Seidner goes on to allege that several times thereafter, Buccella entered or tried to enter Seidner's room at night causing her great fear.

Seidner later reported these assaults to her counselor and a formal investigation was undertaken. Eventually, Buccella pled guilty in federal court to sexual abuse of a prisoner, a violation of 18 U.S.C. Sect. 2243.

Seidner's complaint alleged numerous causes of action, including assault and battery against Buccella; sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Buccella; and a negligence and failure to supervise and discipline claim against MCC-Miami warden Whitney LeBlanc. According to the complaint, instances of sexual abuse by guards at MCC- San Diego were widespread, and LeBlanc "took no action to insure (sic) the safety and bodily integrity of the female inmates."

The complaint pointed to three previous instances of sexual abuse by MCC- San Diego guards, although none related to Seidner. In 1999, guard Jose Acosta "forcibly inserted" his finger into a prisoner's vagina during a booking search. And in 2001, guards Howard Washington and Mark Hagan each pled guilty to committing unrelated sexual acts on a female prisoner.

The lawsuit, filed in February 2003, quickly settled in November of that year. Seidner was to receive a lump sum payment of $55,000, out of which 25% was to go to attorney's fees. Seidner was also responsible for all of her own costs and fees from that settlement. As is customary, the United States denied that any wrongdoing took place. Sediner was represented by attorneys Eugene Iredale and Guadalupe Valencia of San Diego. See: Seidiner v. Buccella, at al., Case No. 03-cv-0261 K(JFS), (U.S.D.C. S.D. CA).

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Related legal case

Seidiner v. Buccella, at al.