Thursday, September 22, 2005
Inmate testifies man was sold for sex by prison gang
WICHITA FALLS - A gay burglary convict was called "Coco" by almost everyone at the Allred Unit and was forced to perform sex acts with inmates who used commissary items worth $3 to $7 to pay the gang that owned him, a prisoner testified Wednesday.
The inmate said Roderick Keith Johnson was the "property" of the Black Gangster Disciples and was sexually assaulted every day by various gangs who ruled the prison.
"That was the job; that's what he had to do," the inmate testified during the federal civil trial stemming from Johnson's lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages against seven Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials.
Johnson's attorneys say prison officials failed to investigate his reports of rapes and didn't follow department policy when they refused to move him to a safer area or transfer him, despite his repeated pleas for help.
Witness says guards knew
U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, saying several prisoners scheduled to testify in the case face serious harm and retaliation, closed the courtroom as the inmate was sworn in Wednesday to protect his identity. But she allowed the media and other spectators inside during his testimony.
The inmate testified none of the seven lawsuit defendants ever saw Johnson being assaulted, but that some corrections officers also called Johnson "Coco" and knew what the gangs were doing.
The inmate said he never raped or took money from Johnson, who was in prison from 2000 to 2003, including 18 months at the Allred Unit near Wichita Falls.
The prisoner also said about 85 to 90 percent of Allred's 3,600 inmates were in gangs, and that several prison officials let some convicts have special privileges if they liked or feared them.
One of Johnson's attorneys, Jeff Monks, told the judge outside the jury's presence that one of the prisoners scheduled to testify was now hesitant because he said at least one officer called the group snitches and made derogatory comments.
The inmates are now housed in different units across Texas but are staying in isolation at the Allred Unit until they testify. At least one is to testify that he also was raped, and others are to testify that they saw Johnson assaulted, plaintiff's attorneys have said.
The judge told Monks to ask the inmates who made the comments and tell her and the Texas Attorney General's Office, which is representing the defendants. Testimony in the case is to resume Monday because the judge had a scheduling conflict the rest of this week.
Warden disputes claims
Earlier Wednesday, assistant warden Richard Wathen — one of the suit's defendants — testified that in one of Johnson's reports of rape, he changed his story about the number of inmates in the shower. Later, a nurse found no signs of assault, Wathen said.
On another day that Johnson said he was assaulted, inmates were locked in their cells and the alleged attacker was housed in another part of the building, Wathen said.
Last year the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dropped eight of the lawsuit's 15 original defendants, including the department's executive director and the prison unit's senior warden. But the court ruled that the others — two women and five men — could be sued for discrimination based on sexual orientation.
See our complete collection of bad behavior at the hands of prison and jail guards: Where did they learn that?
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