Four Female Prisoners Seek Damages Over Abuses at Oregon Prison Called A “Cesspool” of Staff Sexual Abuse, Latest in Abuse Saga
by Mark Wilson
In a report on pervasive sexual abuse of prisoners at Oregon’s only women’s prison in 2017, Prison Legal News reached another five years back in history to quote Brian Lathan, an attorney for some of the women who warned in 2012, “It now really is an epidemic.” [See PLN, March 13, 2017]. Which is an understatement since we have been reporting the systemic sexual abuse of women prisoners in Oregon for over two decades now. Rather than an epidemic it appears to be the latest installment of business as usual for the women’s prison in Oregon.
A quartet of multi-million-dollar federal suits filed between July 2020 and August 2021 allege that rampant sexual abuse continues at the prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Wilsonville.
Just three years after its 2001 opening, the 1,685-bed prison’s first sexual abuse scandal hit. A guard, Lieutenant Jeffrey Allen Barcenas, and Food Services Coordinator Christopher Don Randall both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of official misconduct after repeatedly having sex with prisoner Amanda Durbin in 2004 [See PLN, Nov. 2010, p. 18].
Five months after their pleas, CCCF hired a new Grounds Crew Supervisor, Paul W. Golden. He was sentenced in June 2009 to 11.5 years in prison for Custodial Sexual Misconduct (CSM) with at least ten prisoners.
CSM I, a felony, covers sexual abuse, while CSM II, a misdemeanor, covers sexual harassment. Both crimes were created after the 2004 scandal at CCCF.
Also, in 2009, prison plumber Kaleo Kai Rick and guard Darcy Aaron MacKnight were each sentenced to probation for CSM I, and maintenance worker Troy Bryan Austin was sentenced to three years in prison for the same offense [See PLN, April 2013, p. 56].
The latest lawsuits were filed by attorney Ginger Mooney on behalf of four women who claim they were subjected to sexual abuse by guards Richard Steven Alberts II and Jason Battin.
The first suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon on July 22, 2020, by prisoner Maria Molina, who was 22 when she arrived at CCCF in 2017. She was at once allegedly targeted by Alberts, then newly hired as a guard. Calling her “the perfect target for a sexual predator,” the complaint notes that “she was young, had been previously sexually abused, suffered significant trauma as a child and was facing a lifetime in prison.”
Alberts, 32, allegedly read Molina’s mail, as well as her institutional and medical files. The married man spent months “grooming” her with jokes and flirting, passing her notes and sneaking her candy, she said. He even smuggled her a cell phone in October 2018, she added, which the pair used to talk, text and exchange sexually explicit photos.
Having gained her trust, Alberts allegedly got the prisoner to flash her breasts when he walked past her cell and groped her through her cell’s cuff port. He also regularly pulled her into a supply closet that did not have surveillance cameras for intimate contact, she said.
“Pretty much every night, we’d kiss goodbye,” Molina admitted in a November 2020 interview with the Statesman Journal.
In early 2019, Alberts arranged for Battin to meet the prisoner for a sexual encounter that she said was thwarted when a third guard happened upon them. Later, Battin allegedly kept watch while Alberts took Molina into a staff bathroom, where she performed oral sex on him. For that, Battin was later reassigned but not fired. He has not yet faced criminal charges.
One reform that prison officials touted after earlier scandals was “the rule of three,” a policy requiring a guard to keep two prisoners with him anyplace where there are no cameras. Alberts got around that by having Molina take one of her prisoner friends to stand watch while they had sex in the supply closet.
The lookout was a 26-year-old African American prisoner named Mercedes Crabtree, whom Alberts frequently berated, calling her racial slurs and threatening physical violence. He began sexually abusing her in the closet too, again recruiting Molina to stand lookout. On at least one occasion, at Alberts’ request, both women joined him for a threesome.
Crabtree is the plaintiff in the second suit Mooney filed against CCCF, on August 4, 2020. Both women seek $5 million in damages for being “sexually assaulted, harassed, and used by correctional officers,” according to their complaints, which place Alberts’ actions “in the context of a highly sexualized environment where correctional officers are allowed to make unchecked, sexually charged and derogatory comments about female inmates’ appearances.”
Crabtree also claims that other guards sexually abused her, including former guard Edgar Mickles, who was convicted of CSM with another prisoner in 2017.
Some of Alberts’ co-workers were apparently aware of his abusive behavior. Reports that he might be having sex with prisoners triggered a Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) investigation in spring 2019. Both women were questioned but denied any sexual contact.
“They just asked me if it was happening and of course I said no,” admitted Molina.
The investigation was closed due to a lack of evidence, though investigators had video surveillance of the three of entering the closet where they had sex.
The screw began to turn on Alberts when the two prisoners introduced him to a formerly incarcerated felon, 27-year-old Joseph Lucio Jimenez. The two men entered into a conspiracy with the prisoners, with Jimenez supplying methamphetamine and heroin to Alberts, who smuggled it into CCCF, where Molina and Crabtree sold it to other prisoners.
“(Alberts) wanted a certain amount for it and said we could keep the rest,” Molina admitted. “That went on for six months.”
On June 3, 2019, Alberts picked up heroin from Jimenez and smuggled it into CCCF, as he had before. But this time prison officials were on to him, and he was caught with the drugs. Alberts was placed on administrative leave, and CCCF was locked down for a raid on June 6, 2019, conducted by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Oregon State Police and the state Department of Corrections (DOC) Inspector General’s Office.
Both of Alberts’ victims were placed in segregation. Prison officials withheld their mail and threatened to transfer them out of state if they refused to cooperate with investigators. One guard even taunted them with altered lyrics to the song “It Wasn’t Me,” by reggae musician Shaggy.
After they cooperated, both women were formally punished for racketeering, smuggling contraband, drug possession, distribution and possession of an electronic device. They were placed in segregation, fined and denied visits.
Alberts and Jimenez were indicted on December 19, 2019 in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, charged with conspiring to use cellphones to traffic drugs inside CCCF.
Jimenez, who was by then already in custody on an unrelated gun charge, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and was sentenced to a two-year prison term. Alberts remained on leave while awaiting trial on those charges.
On January 16, 2020, both of Alberts’ victims were abruptly transferred, first to separate Oregon jails and ultimately to prisons in Florida.
In November 2020, Alberts pleaded guilty to the drug trafficking charges against him. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison and resigned from his job.
Yet even with the explicit photos that he sent to Molina, along with records of their correspondence, phone calls, text messages, and surveillance video footage, investigators dragged their feet in charging him with CSM.
“They are trying to cover this up,” Molina said. “We don’t want this swept under the rug.”
Mooney’s legal filing on her behalf concludes that “(the victim) was inappropriately sanctioned for the actions of a correctional officer—a correctional officer who forced plaintiff to engage in criminal activity or face physical, sexual and emotional harm.”
Alberts’s eventual plea deal, reached in March 2021, included an admission of guilt to both his drug trafficking charge and a CSM I charge, for which he received three years of probation after his sentence is completed.
The two more recent suits were filed against Battin, the first of the pair on April 14, 2021. In that complaint, prisoner Brittany Endicott-Orren alleges the guard engaged in a similar pattern of behavior to Alberts, “grooming” her beginning in 2017 “with hand holding and hand touching,” escalating over the next two years as he “exposed himself to (her) while she showered, watched (her) undress, and rubbed her buttocks and pelvic area.”
Before long Battin allegedly “exposed his penis to (Endicott-Orren) through the cuff-port of a cell,” the complaint continues. According to a calendar the prisoner kept, on which she labeled these encounters “showtime,” the guard forced her to have sex with him five times between January 2017 and January 2018.
They had sex again at least once more before he was finally placed under investigation in January 2020—over two years after a cellmate of Endicott-Orren’s reported Battin’s abuse, and the prison’s only response allegedly came in a warning from guard Captain Alana Bruns to “stop talking or spreading rumors about staff members” or face discipline in segregation.
The latest lawsuit, filed on August 3, 2021, also names Battin as the sexual abuser of a prisoner in his charge, Lacy Girard, who was allegedly assaulted by a kitchen worker during her first stint in CCCF in 2012 and 2013, when she was 22 and 23, though she didn’t file a suit over that incident.
After relapsing into drug use, Girard was back in CCCF in 2016 when Battin allegedly cornered her in a closet and “pushed her against a wall and began kissing her neck,” her complaint recalls, adding that he then “unbuttoned her pants, put his hands down her pants, and put his fingers in her vagina.”
During the rest of that stint in the prison, which ended in 2017, and her next stay there, which began in August 2019, Battin’s sexual abuse allegedly continued. The guard would routinely stop outside her cell, she said—even with other prisoners watching—where he “exposed his circumcised penis” as he demanded of her, “Show me your fucking tits.”
Girard said she was afraid to turn in the guard, not least because his wife also worked at the prison, where she was a popular counselor. But a cellmate who’d also been abused—allegedly by CCCF nurse Tony Klein—reported Battin, and the guard was placed under investigation in 2020. Yet he was not the only sexual predator working at CCCF.
Michelle Burrows, a longtime civil rights lawyer who has won federal sexual abuse suits against CCCF since 2004 (See PLN, Nov. 2010, p. 18), brought a lawsuit in 2019 alleging that a prisoner—Jessica Rogers-Hall—was sexually assaulted by a kitchen staff member at the prison. See: Rogers-Hall v. Cloutier, USDC, D OR, Case No. 3:19-cv-01415-AC.
On top of that, according to a December 2020 report by the Portland Tribune, at least six former prisoners had filed lawsuits claiming they were sexually abused by Nurse Klein, though that number may actually be as high as a dozen, according to the complaints Mooney filed on behalf of her four clients.
Current DOC Director Colette S. Peters was appointed in February 2012. When faced with a CCCF sexual abuse scandal that year, she claimed that “we put as many checks and balances in place as we can,” but “unfortunately, there were…boundaries that were still crossed.”
Burrows calls the prison a “cesspool” that punishes victims and enables abusers.
After Alberts was placed on leave, CCCF officials denied Burrows contact with any of her clients at the prison who did not have active cases, only relenting after she sent DOC a letter threatening to alert the Attorney General and Governor.
“It appears that the (DOC) runs a little fiefdom,” Republican state Senator Alan Olsen observed in 2017, when he called DOC itself a “gigantic Peyton Place” and warned that “the dirt stays under the carpet until someone says, ‘This has to stop.’”
A March 2020 lawsuit claims nobody has stopped it because CCCF maintains a culture of “silence enforced through violence, threats, and hazing.” That $7 million suit filed by CCCF guard Michael Kilgus alleges he was stunned with a taser by a training officer enraged over details Kilgus had revealed on Facebook. See: Kilgus v. State of Oregon, 3rd Jud. Dist. Ct., Marion Co. Case No. 20-CV-12593.
As Burrows noted in a suit she filed back in 2010, CCCF management’s “blasé attitude” has resulted in “a lot of sexual misconduct.” By the time of her 2019 suit, she was still accusing prison officials of turning a blind eye to systemic abuse.
“Each new investigation brings public promises and assurances by (DOC) that the problems are only isolated to single bad actors,” the attorney noted.
DOC Director Peters’ media spin staff parroted that line.
“This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” declared spokeswoman Jennifer Black.
“The Oregon (DOC) maintains a stringent code of ethics which requires all employees to be honest, to be truthful, and to obey the law,” echoed fellow DOC spokeswoman Betty Bernt.
By Black’s own count, in 2019 alone there were 24 claims of CSM I at CCCF and another 23 claims of CSM II. See: Molina v. Peters, USDC, D. Or., Case No. 2:20-cv-01195-AC; Crabtree v. Peters, USDC, D. Or., Case No. 2:20-cv-01291-AC; Endicott-Orren v. Peters, USDC, D. Or., Case No. 3:21-cv-00564-AC; Girard v. Battin, USDC, D. Or., Case No. 3:21-cv-01137-AC.
Additional sources: Portland Tribune, Statesman Journal, The Oregonian/OregonLive, KOBI, KTVZ
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login
Related legal cases
Crabtree v. Peters
|Cite||USDC, D. Or., Case No. 2:20-cv-01291-AC|
Molina v. Peters
|Cite||USDC, D. Or., Case No. 2:20-cv-01195-AC|
Endicott-Orren v. Peters
|Cite||USDC, D. Or., Case No. 3:21-cv-00564-AC|
Girard v. Battin
|Cite||USDC, D. Or., Case No. 3:21-cv-01137-AC|
Rogers-Hall v. Cloutier
|Cite||USDC, D OR, Case No. 3:19-cv-01415-AC|
Kilgus v. State of Oregon
|Cite||3rd Jud. Dist. Ct., Marion Co. Case No. 20-CV-12593|