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'Only added to the trauma': Clark Co. Sheriff's Office accused of mismanagement amid pending lawsuits over jail incident

Jail leadership faces heavy scrutiny over complaints filed by 28 women, with some claiming they were threatened and sexual assaulted by male inmates in late 2021.

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Yet another group has accused the Clark County Sheriff's Office of mismanaging an Oct. 2021 incident inside the jail, where several women have since claimed they were assaulted over a span of hours.

On Monday, Indiana's Ninth District Democratic Party leaders hosted a news conference calling for Sheriff Jamey Noel and other jail leadership to step down.

They were joined by more than two dozen women on the steps of the Clark County Courthouse in Jeffersonville, each holding a number in solidarity with the 28 women who allege they were threatened -- and in some cases sexual assaulted or raped -- by male inmates on the jail's watch.

Since late June, current and former inmates have filed two different civil lawsuits, including one federally, accusing the Sheriff's Office of negligence and falling short in their policies.

"Why did these women not have immediate care, and why was it not provided?" said Ninth District Vice Chair Linda Lawson, a 24-year law enforcement veteran with experience working cases of sex crimes and domestic violence.

Party leaders called for an independent investigation into the facility, and announced they filed their own civil rights complaint against the Sheriff's Office.

"The community needs to know that the jail is operating appropriately," said Chris Coyle, the Clark County Democratic Party Chair. "It shouldn't be possible for this to happen, and there's no intervention."

Meanwhile attorney Larry Wilder, representing the Sheriff's Office in this case, pointed to the hard drive he says paints a different picture. On Monday, he told us it contains surveillance video and 44 internal interviews, including with inmates themselves.

"There's nothing that I have seen that makes me believe any assaults occurred, and I've listened to 44 statements," Wilder said.

Sheriff Noel confirmed they're investigating alongside the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, and said the lawsuit and recent comments are false.

In a statement sent out August 15, Noel wrote:

"The lawsuit filed and recent comments from my political opponents contains more false statements and incorrect information than I can count. Despite the ongoing lawsuit, I’ve told my staff that we’re going to bring transparency to this incident and show the community precisely what happened and what we learned from our joint investigation with the FBI and US Marshalls. In the coming days, we’ll bust those myths and show the community the truth and the evidence showing what happened during the 50-minute incident on October 24, 2021.

Sexual assault is evil and my office will always do everything we can to prosecute those who prey on women. But right now, there’s not a single woman who maintains to  investigators that she was sexually assaulted by male inmates on 10/24/21. Audio and video evidence that will come to light soon also doesn’t show any kind of assault.

If any woman was assaulted, we beg them to cooperate with us and actually talk to investigators so we investigate any wrongdoing."

The Sheriff also told the community to look out for a new website, with the intention to "bring transparency and correct a number of false statements made recently." The website will be called ClarkFacts.com, and as of Monday evening, its launch is pending.

The lawsuits claim that in Oct. 2021, now-fired jail officer David Lowe gave two male inmates keys to female pods, in exchange for money. Lowe was arrested and criminally charged, with a trial date set for September.

Several members of the Jeffersonville community believe the Sheriff's Office dropped the ball in responding accordingly to the alleged victims' needs and their safety.

"I know how fragile they are, and this has only added to the trauma that they have to undue," said Barbara Anderson, who doesn't personally know the alleged victims, but spoke as someone who's worked with former inmates in the past.

As of Monday afternoon, Indiana State Police (ISP) says it hasn't received any request from county officials or prosecutors to investigate this case. To this point, no rape or assault charges have been filed.

Contact reporter Isaiah Kim-Martinez at IKimMartin@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.

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