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Former Prisoner Uses “Look Back” Window to Sue for Sexual Abuse at Shuttered New York Prison

by David M. Reutter

“For decades, women incarcerated in New York state prisons have been raped, assaulted, sexually abused, harassed, and verbally degraded” by male guards, as officials “turned a blind eye to the sexual misconduct.” That explosive allegation was made in a lawsuit filed on November 29, 2022, seeking damages for sexual abuse alleged by a former prisoner at the now-shuttered Bayview Correctional Facility.

The suit was made possible by passage of the state’s “look back” law, the Adult Survivors Act. When it took effect in July 2022, it opened a 12-month window for victims of sexual abuse to bring legal claims that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.

The claimant in this case was identified in court pleadings as “LK Doe 2.” Her complaint alleged that prisoners held at Bayview, a medium-security all-female prison in New York City operated from 1979 to 2012, “were at high risk of being sexually abused by the predominately male prison staff.” New State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) records from 2007 to 2012 show “women were involved in 30% of sexual misconduct cases and 61% of sexual harassment cases, despite accounting for only 5% of all state prisoners.”

The complaint cited at least five lawsuits that gave or should have given DOCCS knowledge of sexual abuse at Bayview. It also pointed to two instances when Bayview guards were convicted of sexual misconduct against prisoners.

LK Doe 2 was imprisoned at Bayview from 2001 until her release in 2006. In 2005 she worked in the dining hall under the supervision of a guard named Bonello, who “was a large Caucasian man, with a height of about 6’1” and a big stomach,” the complaint recalled.

For several months, Bonello allegedly “attempted to groom” LK Doe 2 for sex, asking her to stay late and plying her with cigarettes or extra food from the dining hall. She feigned having a boyfriend and said she was not interested in Bonello’s advances.

After months of grooming, Bonello allegedly came up behind LK Doe 2 while they were alone and grabbed her breast. It happened repeatedly, she said, and each time Bonello “would touch Claimant’s breasts, kiss her breasts, and make other advances.” After enduring six months of this abuse, LK Doe 2 successfully requested an assignment change.

But she alleged that on one instance after that change, Bonello came to her cell and fondled her. She also lodged a complaint with Sgt. Hill about the abuse, but he took no action. Bonello was allegedly removed from the dining hall for abusing another prisoner and subsequently fired by DOCCS for sexually abusing a third prisoner.

The complaint seeks compensatory damages. It was filed on behalf of the claimant by attorney Anna Kull with Levy Konigsburg LLP in New York City. See: LK Doe 2 v. N.Y., N.Y. Court of Claims (2022).

Hundreds of other former Bayview prisoners plan to use the Adult Survivors Act to sue DOCCS for sexual abuse they suffered at the prison. In the most famous case opened under the law, writer E. Jean Carroll successfully sued former Pres. Donald J. Trump (R) for sexually assaulting and raping her; a jury awarded her $5 million in damages on May 10, 2023.

Additional sources: Local Today News, New York Times