Tuesday, September 27, 2005


One jail guard resigns, another suspended in sexual assault probe

PASCO, Wash. -- A Franklin County Jail guard has resigned and another has been suspended in an investigation into a woman inmate's claim that she was sexually assaulted.

The names of the two correctional officers were being withheld, no criminal charges have been filed and the investigation was continuing, Prosecutor Steve M. Lowe said Friday.

The woman, a mother of four, has been transferred to the Benton County Jail in nearby Kennewick at the request of her lawyer, Robert Thompson, who said he was concerned for her safety.

The woman told the Tri-City Herald she had oral sex with a guard twice in August after being told that if she refused, she would not be released from jail in October as scheduled. She also said she saw woman inmates doing "strip shows" for other men in the jail.

She was jailed June 11 and has been serving a six-month sentence for possessing cocaine, records show. Her record also includes convictions for writing bad checks and theft.

Sheriff Richard Lathim, who confirmed the resignation and suspension, said she changed her story several times. At the start of the investigation there was no mention of sexual contact, and when inmates and officers were questioned, "everybody said there was absolutely no sexual contact," Lathim said.

The investigation involves "a couple officers not following rules" and female inmates exposing themselves to other guards, Lathim said.

The woman said she was given a polygraph test by sheriff's deputies. Thompson said investigators have requested a second lie detector test but have yet to contact him about scheduling it.

The investigation marks the second case involving accusations of sexual assault at the lockup in recent years. David Webster, 36, is scheduled for trial Nov. 16 on three counts of first-degree rape involving his 17-year-old male cellmate in September 2003.

The younger man, from Vancouver, Wash., was paid $400,000 from the county's insurance pool last summer to settle a federal lawsuit against the county, the sheriff, jail Capt. Richard Long, Lt. Alma Winklesky and three unnamed jailers.

See our complete collection of bad behavior at the hands of prison and jail guards: Where did they learn that?

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