Sedgwick County recently received claims for $2 million in damages from attorneys for inmates who allege that a jail deputy sexually assaulted them.
The claims, a first step in possible lawsuits alleging civil rights violations and negligence, are from two inmates seeking $1 million each.
The claims follow ones filed this summer on behalf of two other inmates, each seeking $10 million and alleging they were victims of the same deputy.
The county is now facing four claims, from four inmates, totaling $22 million.
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“I guess I want to emphasize at this point that these are just allegations … and that they are being investigated,” County Counselor Rich Euson said Thursday.
All four inmates allege that they were victims of sheriff’s Deputy David Kendall, 22, who resigned in late June and is facing 12 criminal charges. Eleven of the 12 charges accuse him of sex crimes against six inmates. The alleged crimes reportedly occurred between April and June and range from felony aggravated criminal sodomy to misdemeanor sexual battery.
Lawyers representing Kendall in the criminal case couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
The two new claims were filed earlier this month by Wichita attorneys Mark Schoenhofer and Kurt Kerns, who also filed the earlier claims. The Eagle obtained copies of the claims through a request filed under the Kansas Open Records Act. The copies have been redacted by the county; some information has been deleted because the county considers it not to be in the public interest because it involves the criminal investigation or personal information such as names of alleged victims, County Clerk Kelly Arnold said in a letter to The Eagle.
One of the two new claims, dated Sept. 6, says Kendall told an inmate “he would be back” to his cell and says that the inmate “was afraid of retaliation by guards.” According to the claim, the inmate reported a concern to a jail sergeant and wrote a statement about it, and that when he was interviewed by two detectives, “Both Detectives called (information deleted) ‘liar,’ and one of the detectives accused (information deleted) of ‘just wanting to get a deputy fired.’ ”
The claim accuses Kendall of battery, assault and dehumanizing actions that violated the inmate’s constitutional rights.
The claim also accuses Sheriff Robert Hinshaw of negligence in hiring and retaining Kendall. The claim goes on to say: “Sheriff Hinshaw and his administration were on notice, even before the sexual advances towards (information deleted) that at least one inmate had complained that Deputy Kendall had been accused of illicit sexual behavior in the jail. Even with this information, the Sheriff and his administration took no action against Deputy Kendall.” It says that witnesses said Kendall “propositioned them for sex as early as January or February of 2012.”
Hinshaw had this comment Thursday: “They can make all the allegations they want, and if they don’t make an allegation against me, it’s a lot harder to sue me.”
As a “roving deputy,” Kendall worked late at night and was “left alone with inmates, even after numerous sexual crimes against inmates had occurred and notice had been given to the Sheriff that Kendall had engaged in such illicit sexual conduct,” said the claim filed by the inmate’s attorneys.
Kendall, who has been released on bond, is facing an Oct. 4 preliminary hearing to decide whether there is enough evidence to hold a trial.