Twenty-eight female prisoners at an Indiana jail claim in two federal lawsuits that they were subjected to a “night of terror” after they were attacked and sexually assaulted by male inmates who had allegedly bought a key to the women’s wing from one of the jailers for $1,000.
The ordeal at the Clark County jail allegedly began early on Oct. 24, 2021, and continued over the course of several hours, during which the women were “raped, assaulted, harassed, threatened and intimidated,” according to the most recent lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana.
It was filed on behalf of eight of the women, all identified as Jane Doe, against Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel, now-former corrections officer David Lowe, and several “unknown” officers at the jail in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
A previous lawsuit had been filed earlier in June on behalf of 20 other female inmates, alleging that Noel and the jail guards violated the women’s civil rights by either intentionally or negligently allowing the male inmates to gain access to their pods and not coming to their aid.
“Amazingly, even though there were surveillance cameras positioned in locations that showed the male detainees accessing the women’s Pods, and even though the incident involved multiple mail (sic) detainees and dozens of victims over an extended period of time, not a single jail officer on duty that night came to the aid of the Plaintiffs and the other victims,” the complaint states.
Afterward, the female inmates contend in the lawsuit, “rather than support the victims who were subject to sexual assault and abuse, Jail officials punished the women after the incident” by subjecting them to lockdowns, confiscating their property, and by keeping the lights on for 72 hours straight.
They also didn’t change the locks to the pod, even though the keys were still missing, the suits state.
The lawsuits were filed after Lowe was criminally charged in October with three counts — escape, official misconduct and trafficking with an inmate, according to online court records. His trial has been scheduled for November and he faces at least nine years in prison if convicted of all three charges, according to the records.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Lowe said he made a mistake that enabled the inmates to steal the keys. He also insisted he was “coerced and assaulted into making a false confession” about selling them the keys.
NBC News has reached out to Lowe’s lawyer for comment and to Jeremy Mull, the Clark County prosecuting attorney, to see if any of the male inmates who allegedly attacked the women have been identified and charged with crimes.
The women said two inmates were the ringleaders and they disguised themselves so they could not be identified.
“The men, who covered their faces so they could not be identified, were yelling and threatening to harm the women if they called for help or pressed the emergency call button,” the complaint states.
And they immediately made it clear what they were after.
“Where’s the p--- at?” they yelled, according to the lawsuit. “I haven’t had p--- in two years!”
Later, other male inmates joined in on terrorizing the women, the suit states. At least two women were raped.
One of the rape victims, identified in the most recent lawsuit as Jane Doe 1, said she contracted genital herpes as a result of the sexual assault.
The other woman who was raped became pregnant and later miscarried, William McCall, one of the two lawyers representing the 20 women who filed the first federal lawsuit, told The Washington Post.
Noel declined to comment Wednesday on the allegation, but his attorney Larry Wilder in a statement blamed “the unforeseeable criminal actions of a rogue corrections officer.”
Wilder added that sheriff’s detectives have interviewed women who were in the pod “and these interviews have yielded information that is in direct opposition to the allegations made in the civil lawsuit."
“Further, the investigation seems to indicate that there was a systematic plan by individuals who were incarcerated that evening to develop the narrative that makes up the crux of the claims in the civil case,” Wilder said.
Both lawsuits allege violations of constitutional rights, negligence, inadequate training and procedures, and other problems. They seek damages but do not name a specific dollar amount.
The Clark County Sheriff's Office, which Noel heads, is doing the investigation because the Indiana Department of Correction "does not have oversight or investigative authority over county jails," IDOC spokeswoman Annie Goeller said in an email.
An elected official serving his second term as sheriff, Noel is also Clark County’s Republican Party chair and a friend of former Vice President Mike Pence, and he supported former President Donald Trump.
In 2016, the Clark County jail was featured in the A&E reality TV program "60 Days In," which exposed abuses that resulted in the firing of five corrections officers and the resignations of four others, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported.