JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. — Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel is refuting claims made by women in multiple lawsuits alleging they were sexually assaulted by incarcerated men after an officer gave them keys to the women's dorms.
The lawsuits, including one at the federal level, allege the women were assaulted over the span of hours. But according to Noel, many of the accusations are "blatantly false."
On the website, ClarkFacts, Noel said his office plans to release as much relevant evidence regarding the case as possible, "so the public can see with their own eyes."
The attorney representing the sheriff's office, Larry Wilder, called the move a bit unconventional, but necessary.
"This is against conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is that you are supposed to say nothing and do nothing when you're being sued in these kinds of cases," Wilder said. "It's time to debunk what they're saying."
Steve Wagner represents 8 of the 28 alleged victims and shared his views on the new website.
"I've been handling civil rights cases and other litigation for 26 years, and I've never seen a PR stunt like this from any defendant, much less an elected official like a sheriff," Wagner said.
The first claim Sheriff Noel refuted was that the entire ordeal took place over multiple hours. He says it was more like 36-40 minutes based on surveillance video.
In response, Wagner said the timeframe that night is not as black and white as it may seem.
"With regard to the timeframe, none of my eight clients were timing the events of that night," Wagner said. "It was dark. The men were yelling, threatening them. They didn't look at their watches in time the event."
Wilder had the following to say regarding Wagner's comment:
"All they're trying to do is figure out a way to set a narrative that supports their ability to get money from the taxpayers of Clark County," he said.
Noel said the Jeffersonville jail is divided into pods. The pods involved in this case are in a reportedly lower security area of the jail, with incarcerated persons living in a dorm-like setting.
Men are housed in Pod 4C while women are housed in pods 4D, E and F. The pods are separated by locked doors which require a guard’s key to open.
A former corrections officer, identified in the lawsuit as David Lowe, allowed the men to enter the women’s pods in exchange for money, while he distracted another guard from looking at the security cameras.
Newly released surveillance video shows incarcerated men leaving Pod 4C at 2:10 a.m. using the guard’s key. The men began entering the female pods around 2:11 a.m. and continued walking through the women’s pods, eventually reaching Pod 4F, at 2:13 a.m.
“Male inmates should never be in the female pod of the jail,” Noel said. “After learning of this betrayal we took immediate steps to secure the facility and made several changes to prevent this from ever happening again.” However, he says the video shows “no one in obvious distress.”
That's because, Wagner says, his clients allege, "The sexual assaults took place in the bunk areas of the women's dorm as well as the bathrooms of the women's dorm. So that video does nothing to debunk the allegations of these women."
“In fact,” Noel said. “The surveillance footage shows male and female inmates talking in open areas and casually walking back and forth.”
The video shows the men returning to their pod around 2:45 a.m.
Noel says there are call buttons in each of the jail’s pods which would have allowed for someone to call for immediate help if they needed. He said besides a request for personal hygiene products, made one minute after the incarcerated men left the female pods, there was no call for help.
Footage shows an officer delivering the products a few minutes later.
“None of the female inmates say anything to this corrections officer about male inmates, sexual assault, or anything similar,” Noel said.