Editor’s note: This article describes details of sexual assaults and is not suitable for all readers.
A man who was incarcerated at Jefferson County Jail is suing the county, alleging guards ignored warnings that inmates were sexually assaulting others.
The plaintiff, whom the Post Register is not identifying, also is suing Sheriff Steve Anderson and several deputies, including Jail Capt. Nora Ortega, Lt. Joshua Bush, Sgt. John Clements, Cpl. Derek Belnap and Deputy Jon Wolfe.
The lawsuit filed in federal court is alleging that the jail knew other inmates were committing sexual assaults and did not take proper steps to protect the plaintiff. The complaint states he was sexually assaulted a second time even after reporting the first attack.
The complaint filed states the plaintiff was held at the jail from Nov. 21, 2019, to Dec. 7, 2019. It states another inmate warned the plaintiff that there were sexual assaults happening in the jail.
The complaint also states that the same inmate who warned the plaintiff had already warned jail staff on Nov. 19, 2019. The plaintiff was allegedly put in a cell with the inmates who were accused.
The plaintiff says two inmates, Geovanny Reyes-Hernandez and Gabriel Lopez-Montiel, sexually assaulted him on Nov. 29, 2019.
“The viciousness of the assault on (the plaintiff) resulted in injury to his rectum and a bite mark on his back,” the complaint states. The attorney, John Bulger, goes on to write that the plaintiff’s testicles were violently pulled during the rape, and that one of them was forced into his abdominal cavity.
“As of this date, his testicle remains in an ascended state and continues to limit his movement due to pain,” Bulger wrote. “Doctors have indicated nothing can be done to rectify the issue.”
Bulger writes that on Nov. 30, Reyes-Hernandez was moved to a cell adjacent to the victim’s and told not to enter the victim’s cell. Bulger alleges Reyes-Hernandez did reenter his client’s cell and raped him a second time.
The victim was then moved to an isolated cell on Dec. 1, 2019. Bulger writes his client was not given any medical treatment or examined for injuries. He reportedly was not medically examined until Dec. 3, after talking about what happened to his public defense attorney on Dec. 2.
A probable cause affidavit filed against Lopez-Montiel states deputies began investigating the rapes on Dec. 1 following a call from the victim’s mother. The affidavit states the victim was not cooperative with deputies. He told a cousin about the rapes in a recorded phone, asking his cousin to find him an attorney and contact the American Civil Liberties Union.
The victim reportedly repeated these requests when interviewed by jail deputies, the lawsuit states. Bedding from the victim and the two men accused or raping him were taken as evidence. Deputies contacted a public defense attorney to meet with the victim, the affidavit states, in the hope of convincing the victim to allow evidence from his body to be collected for the investigation.
The victim told deputies that Reyes-Hernandez and Lopez-Montiel became increasingly sexually aggressive in the days they were in the cell, first flashing their genitals at other inmates, then grabbing them. The victim said a deputy took him to a medical exam around Thanksgiving, before the rapes, and asked if anything “weird” was happening in the cell. The victim also told deputies there were multiple sexual assaults that did not involve penetration, saying he was assaulted between 50 and 60 times.
A sexual assault nurse examiner collected evidence from the victim’s body on Dec. 2, according to the affidavit. The victim was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center after the nurse noticed the injuries to his testicles, giving a description to deputies similar to that in the lawsuit.
The affidavit states surveillance cameras caught Reyes-Hernandez and Lopez-Montiel trying to grab the victim sexually, with the victim attempting to stop him. Lopez-Montiel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery and was sentenced to 150 days in jail. Reyes-Hernandez also was charged, but was reportedly transported to a Texas federal facility before the case was resolved. The lawsuit states he was released and that his current location was unknown.
On Dec. 7 the victim was moved to Bonneville County Jail. A lieutenant who transferred him reportedly told him the transfer was because they feared they could not safely hold him at the Jefferson County Jail.
A tort claim was filed in March 2020, and the lawsuit was filed Nov. 8.
“Defendants’ failure to protect (the plaintiff) from reported predators in the jail constitutes gross negligence; reckless, willful, and wanton conduct; and deliberate indifference for their failure to take corrective actions to protect the Plaintiff,” Bulger wrote in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit cites a review by the jail of the incident that found no policy changes were needed, arguing that it shows the sheriff’s office is not taking corrective action to prevent a repeat of what happened to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is requesting damages from the lawsuit of at least $75,000.
Anderson told the Post Register he has been advised to not comment on the case by attorneys, adding that the allegations would be addressed in court.
By Jonathan Hogan at The Post Register