June 12, 2012

Allegation of Sedgwick County Jail rape is under investigation

Two Wichita lawyers say they are investigating reports that a male Sedgwick County Jail deputy handcuffed and raped and sodomized a male inmate in his cell early June 3.

Two Wichita lawyers say they are investigating reports that a male Sedgwick County Jail deputy handcuffed and raped and sodomized a male inmate in his cell early June 3.

The lawyers, Kurt Kerns and Mark Schoenhofer, said they are planning to file a “notice of claim” with the county, a first step toward a possible lawsuit alleging multiple civil rights violations and negligence.

The alleged rape is being investigated at a time when the jail is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in federal court over treatment of mentally ill inmates. A recently filed affidavit in that lawsuit states that sheriff’s supervisors knew of a culture of demeaning and abusive behavior, including beatings of inmates, by detention deputies and other inmates.

“It doesn’t get more abusive than what happened here,” Kerns said of the rape allegation. Schoenhofer said the allegations involve “stuff that you see in movies.”

Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said today: “There has been an allegation made” that is being investigated by the criminal investigations unit of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and that is being monitored by the office’s professional standards unit. “I’m not going to comment on a case until I have the objective facts,” Hinshaw said.

Meanwhile, the deputy is on a modified assignment in which he is not to have direct contact with inmates, Hinshaw said.

The two attorneys said they don’t know whether charges are being contemplated but said they think there is compelling evidence of a crime.

“We wouldn’t be going forward with this claim if we didn’t have strong evidence of abuse of our client,” Schoenhofer said.

Kerns gave this account, which he said is based on their investigation so far:

It happened around 3 a.m. on June 3 in the inmate’s single-man cell in a pod where other inmates are housed. The deputy, who was alone, handcuffed the inmate, pushed him forward and raped and sodomized him, causing injury. The deputy had ordered the inmate not to make a noise or he would be jolted by a Taser stun gun.

When the inmate rolled over, Kerns said, he could see that the deputy didn’t have a stun gun, and the inmate screamed, which was heard by other inmates. The inmate “bull-rushed’’ the deputy in self defense, while still handcuffed, causing the deputy to back up and slam the cell door. The deputy’s handcuffs remained on the inmate, and other deputies, including a sergeant, arrived, according to the attorneys’ investigation.

The inmate has undergone a sexual assault examination, which included him being swabbed for semen and DNA, Kerns said. Test results are not yet available to the attorneys, Kerns said.

Right after the alleged attack, the inmate was put in solitary confinement and told it was being done for his protection, Kerns said.

“He had no way of contacting any family,” Schoenhofer said.

The attorneys said they were able to meet with the inmate only in recent days.

“Because there was no way for our client to get word to anybody that he had been raped,” Schoenhofer said.

Kerns said he and Schoenhofer are requesting that the sheriff’s office put the inmate in another facility during the investigation.

“For his own safety, we want him out of that … jail,” Kerns said.

The inmate is a younger man who has been in jail because he has been accused of a non-violent drug offense, Kerns said.

According to records, the deputy has been with the sheriff’s office for about four years.

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