Two Lawsuits Allege Inmate Sexual Assault by Missouri Guard
A second lawsuit has been filed against a guard at a Missouri women's prison alleging sexual assault of an inmate.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Chillicothe Correctional Center officer Edward Bearden of sexually assaulting inmate Lynnsey Betz, the Kansas City Star reported . The lawsuit also names two of Bearden's superiors and the Missouri Department of Corrections official responsible for preventing prison rape.
Bearden is accused of groping and making crude comments toward Betz, according to the lawsuit. Betz alleges in the lawsuit that Bearden cornered her one day in a supply closet, where he forcibly attempted to kiss her. The lawsuit accuses Bearden of putting his hand down Betz's pants and penetrating her as she struggled to break free from him.
The lawsuit alleges "prison officials knew or should have known" Bearden was sexually assaulting Betz and "did nothing to prevent or stop the attacks." Betz "suffered severe physical and emotional trauma" due to the defendants' actions, the suit said.
It follows another lawsuit filed by former inmate Karen Keil, who alleges Bearden raped her repeatedly from 2012 to 2015. Keil's lawsuit also alleges she reported the rape to a prison mental health counselor, who then assaulted her too.
The counselor, John Thomas Dunn, has since pleaded guilty to illegal sexual contact with another inmate.
Corrections Department spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said Bearden is still employed but will retire soon. She declined comment on the lawsuit.
Betz and Keil's lawsuits were filed by a team of attorneys at the Saint Louis University Legal Clinic and the St. Louis firm, Kamykowski, Gavin & Smith.
"The (Missouri) Department of Corrections has faced several publicized lawsuits from employees facing sexual harassment by fellow employees," said Brendan Roediger, a university law professor working on the cases. "What has remained hidden is the fact that women prisoners are being sexually assaulted with literally nowhere to run to get away from their molesters."