Home Nonviolent defense Woman sues Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, claiming inmate raped her | Colombia News

Woman sues Lexington County Sheriff’s Department, claiming inmate raped her | Colombia News


LEXINGTON — The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department is accused of placing a male inmate in the same holding cell as an inmate on suicide watch, where he then sexually assaulted her, according to a complaint filed with a state court.

The inmate, who was held on numerous violent charges, had been placed in the same cell as the inmate, who had been prescribed medication for mental illnesses and was on suicide watch where she had to be watched in permanence, the lawsuit says.

He remained in the cell for about an hour and a half, according to the trial, and during that time he raped her.

After the inmate reported the sexual assault, she faced criminal charges for ‘filing a false police report for a criminal offence’, which were later dismissed at a preliminary hearing, according to the court complaint .

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 7 against the sheriff’s department because it is responsible for the operation and security of the county’s 720-bed detention center.

Also named are Constable JR Belt, who is accused of placing the inmate in the cell, and Detective Michael J. Hart, who is accused of wrongfully arresting the inmate who reported the assault.

“I’ve never seen a situation like this,” said plaintiff attorney James B. Moore III of Georgetown-based law firm Evans Moore.

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Moore said he has worked on numerous sexual assault cases in correctional facilities. He said most of the cases involved either male inmates or an inmate and a corrections officer or staff member.

According to the lawsuit, the inmate, referred to as Jane Doe because she is a victim of sexual assault, was arrested for a non-violent offense on December 19, 2020.

The lawsuit claims that his history of mental illness and treatment for bipolar and schizophrenia are well documented and noted upon admission. It was recorded that she had previously been sexually abused, had been hospitalized in a behavioral health center and had been prescribed a number of mental health medications and mood stabilizers.

Two days later, she was placed on suicide watch and moved to an observation cell equipped with CCTV, according to the lawsuit.

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“She was on suicide watch, where she needs to be watched and observed all the time,” Moore said.

At approximately 1 a.m., an inmate, who had been held on multiple violent charges including first-degree assault and possession of a weapon in a violent crime, was moved to Observation Cell 3 – the same cell as the detainee, according to the trial. He was held there until 2:30 a.m. and then moved to Observation Cell 4, the trial said.

The woman reported that she had been raped and was taken to the prison medical office and then transferred to Lexington Medical Center for examination by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, according to the lawsuit.

The day after the assault was reported, she was charged with filing a false police report, according to the lawsuit.

During the discovery of that lawsuit, Moore said, video footage from the cell’s surveillance camera was obtained by criminal defense attorney Aimee Zmroczek of the AJZ law firm in Colombia. She also represents the victim in this case.

“The sexual assault, which was recorded on the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office video recording monitor, shows that Ms. Doe appears to be conscious and unconscious,” according to the lawsuit.

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After the video evidence was obtained, the charge was dismissed in April 2021, Moore said.

The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department public information officer declined to comment, saying it is standard practice not to discuss any issues related to pending litigation.

The department did not respond to questions about protocols for placing inmates on suicide watch, or whether there are any circumstances in which a male and female inmate would be placed together.

Belt worked at the Lexington County Detention Center from May 2016 to September 2022, according to SC Criminal Justice Academy records. His leave was classified as routine separation and he is not currently working as a law enforcement officer in South Carolina, records show. He is still certified as a Class 2 Law Enforcement Officer.

Hart has been with the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department since September 2011 and is still employed, according to academy records.