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CoreCivic Still Accruing Fines for Short-Staffing Florida Jail Where Developmentally Disabled Teen Was Raped

by Ashleigh N. Dye

At its meeting on January 24, 2023, the Board of County Commissioners of Florida’s Citrus County voted to deduct $116,250 off its December 2022 bill from private prison operator CoreCivic to run the county jail. The fine represents a daily fee of $3,750, assessed for failing to meet staffing requirements at Citrus County Detention Facility.

County staffers previously warned that CoreCivic let staffing levels fall to 69.78% from 70.48% in November. That meant the staffing crisis would soon reach its one-year anniversary since the firm’s fines began accruing in February 2022. [See: PLN, Apr. 2022, p.34.]

The latest fine also puts CoreCivic’s losses at the jail well over $1 million in just three years – since it coughed up $425,000 in January 2019 to settle claims that its guards allowed a developmentally disabled teen to be raped by a fellow detainee. The lawsuit filed by C.W. Butzer’s mother, Lesley, also accused the firm of preventing her from contacting him after the 2016 assault. [See: PLN, Dec. 2018, p.50.]

Butzer filed her suit in federal court for the Middle District of Florida in August 2017. The case involved, as the Court later recalled, “the alleged rape of two minors.” One was a child under 12 allegedly assaulted by C.W., which landed him in the jail to await trial. While there, he was raped by at least one other detainee, his mother claimed.

Though CoreCivic failed to preserve video evidence, her motion for spoliation was denied in September 2018. See: Butzer v. Corecivic, Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 224429 (M.D. Fla.). But so was the firm’s motion for summary judgment made the following December. As the Court recalled, CoreCivic argued “that it did exercise reasonable care before C.W. was raped because it had no reason to foresee that he would be at risk from the other juveniles who had no history of sexual assault charges.” The firm also said “that Butzer’s claims that it did not act with reasonable care after C.W. was raped fail as a matter of law because those failures could not be the cause of C.W.’s rape.”

The Court said it “disagrees with the premise of both of CoreCivic’s arguments based on the disputed facts of this case.”

First, foreseeability was a question for the jury, the Court said, citing both Spann v. State Dep’t of Corr., 421 So. 2d 1090 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1982), and McCain v. Florida Power Corp., 593 So.2d 500 (Fla. 1992).

Second, CoreCivic argued that it had no notice C.W. might be assaulted by his alleged rapist, another juvenile detainee identified as L.G. Yet “that is exactly what C.W. alleges,” the Court observed, noting that the victim had already reported an earlier rape by his assailant. Again, the Court said, that made it a matter for a jury to decided. See: Butzer v. Corecivic, Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 223764 (M.D. Fla.).

After that, the parties proceeded to reach their settlement agreement. Under its terms, in addition to receiving the payout, Butzer assumed responsibility for fees and expenses for her attorneys with Fischer Redavid PLLC in Hollywood. See: Butzer v. Corecivic, Inc., USDC (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 5:17-cv-00360.

Meanwhile, the family of another detainee, 40-year-old Gerald Dietrich Jr., demanded to know why guards at the jail couldn’t prevent him from being killed on September 9, 2022 – allegedly by Brodrick Houston, 33, who had been held at the jail on fentanyl-possession and theft charges since the previous April. The family was also still smarting from CoreCivic’s initial story: that Dietrich died after falling from bed.

“That boy’s been through a whole lot,” said his sister, Melissa Hamilton, “but him falling out of his bed made no sense.”

His death was at least the ninth recorded at the jail in three years, none of which could be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. [See: PLN, May 2022, p.18.]

Additional source: Citrus County Chronicle

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