“Night of Terror” in Indiana Jail Sees Detainees Assaulted by Fellow Prisoners Who Purchased Cell Keys From Guard
by Kevin W. Bliss
An Indiana jail guard and a jail detainee are headed to trial in the summer of 2023 on charges that the guard sold the detainee access to keys that he used to unlocked the female housing area to a group of male detainees. But officials at the Clark County Jail insist the women who filed lawsuits alleging they were sexually assaulted are exagerrating those attacks.
“In fact, the surveillance footage shows male and female inmates talking in open areas and casually walking back and forth,” former Sheriff Jamey Noel posted on a now-defunct website, clarkfacts.com, which he created to counter rumors about the incident.
On the night of October 23-24, 2021, two pods holding female detainees were overrun by male prisoners who stole access keys from a control module and allegedly paid off guard David J. Lowe to look the other way. Lowe was quickly fired, arrested and charged with felony criminal escape and official misconduct, after reportedly admitting he sold access to the keys for a $1,000 bribe. [See: PLN, Dec. 2021, p.62.]
In suits filed in federal court for the Southern District of Indiana in July 2022, a group of women detained at the jail that night claim they were harassed, abused, and sexually assaulted for hours by the invading detainees, who attempted to hide their identity by wearing masks. The men allegedly threatened to kill the victims if they called for help. The women said they were attacked in their beds, in the bathrooms, and in the dark corners of the pods where they hid. Two claimed they were raped.
Sometime around 2:00 a.m., one woman was able to hit the emergency call button and scream for help. The male prisoners fled, and guards showed up. But instead of investigating the intrusion, they blamed the women for the outburst. As punishment, they decided the women had lost their “dark” privileges and turned on all the lights. The women were locked in their cells. The following day their personal property was confiscated, including bedding and hygiene items.
By July 2022, 28 women had come forward with allegations, and two lawsuits had been filed against Lowe, Sheriff Noel, and other unnamed guards at the jail. The victims said that not only did guards fail to protect them but also they sat and watched on video monitors while the abuse transpired.
Filed by attorneys Bart Betteau, William McCall III, Stephen Wagner and Laura Swafford, the suits accused Sheriff Noel of failing to train, supervise, and discipline guards, blaming policies, practices, and procedures of the jail for perpetuating the environment that allowed the attacks to occur. The victims claimed injuries including physical and emotional abuse and psychological trauma. One said she contracted genital herpes during the incident.
A month after the suits were filed, former jail detainee Jordan Parker Sykes was charged with theft after he reportedly admitted stealing the keys from a control pod after paying off Lowe to look the other away. His trial is scheduled in Clark County Circuit Court 1 on August 24, 2023. See: Indiana v. Sykes, Ind. Cir. 1 (Clark Cty.), Case No. 10C03-2208-F6-001120. Lowe’s case is scheduled for trial in the same court on September 5, 2023. See: Indiana v. Lowe, Ind. Cir. 1 (Clark Cty.), Case No. 10C01-2110-F5-000262.
The two civil cases filed by the alleged victims were consolidated by the Southern District of Indiana on February 17, 2023. That was after the Court denied a request for a gag order from Lowe, who is proceeding pro se, on February 9, 2023. See: Coomer v. Noel, USDC (S.D. Ind.), Case No: 4:22-cv-00079.
PLN will report updates in these cases as they are available. Meanwhile, Noel was term-limited from seeking re-election and stepped down at the end of 2022. Newly elected Sheriff Scottie Maples, who was Chief Deputy at the time of the incident, took office at the beginning of 2023, appointing Noel to the rank of major in the department.
Additional source: Jeffersonville News and Tribune
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