Women

06.20.13

Former Inmates Claim Texas Prison Ran ‘Rape Camp’

Two women recently filed a lawsuit—resembling a similar claim from other Live Oak County Jail prisoners in 2012—alleging that jailers systematically abused female inmates behind bars.

Two female former inmates in Texas’s Live Oak County jail have filed a lawsuit against the County and three former jailers, claiming the men ran a “rape camp” where women were “repeatedly raped and humiliated,” according to a court document.

The lawsuit comes less than a year after a similar suit filed by two different women against the same defendants. Two of the men, Vincent Aguilar and Jaime E. Smith, are serving time in a state jail after pleading guilty to separate felony charges of “violation of the civil rights of person in custody; improper sexual assault” against the women in the 2012 lawsuit.

The third man, Israel Charles Jr., pled guilty to felony charges and served 12 months in jail, but has since been released.

Both the 2012 and 2013 lawsuits detail allegations of systemic abuse against female inmates at the facility.

“Beginning sometime in 2007 to at least August of 2010 the Live Oak County Sheriff’s office ran a ‘rape camp’ known as the Live Oak County jail,” says the 2013 lawsuit.

This humiliation allegedly included rape, oral sex, and masturbation, among other acts, according to both the 2012 and 2013 documents.

The 2013 complaint goes on to allege, “In addition to the repeated sexual assaults, numerous female inmates were sexually harassed. Certain male guards would strip the female inmates of their clothing and provide only shaving cream to conceal their genitalia. Certain male guards would sometimes force the female inmates to shower in front of them while instructing them to shave their vaginas.”

Other times, “while detailing their degenerate sexual fantasies, the jailers would pin the girls against the wall, grope their persons, verbally berate them, digitally rape their vagina and/or anus, then force them to perform oral sex,” the complaint says.

If the women did not comply with the guards’ requests, the lawsuit says, the men allegedly would “withhold food and water, engage in physical abuse, restrict privileges and verbally and emotionally abuse the women—even threaten to kill them in order to compel their compliance.”

The 2013 complaint says, “The abuse was so pervasive and knowledge of it so widespread that inmates in a neighboring county … had knowledge of the assaults” and “not one, but multiple Live Oak County jailers were parties to countless sexual assaults of numerous different female inmates over a period of years.”

Both the 2013 and 2012 complaint documents allege that Live Oak County knew of the assaults. The 2013 complaint says that despite “complaints by previous inmates of molestation by Live Oak County jailers … little or no investigation” was made into the complaints.

Additionally, according to the 2013 complaint, “High-ranking Live Oak County officials ignored, concealed and/or failed to document and/or investigate complaints regarding inappropriate sexual advances by jailers at the facility in question.”

The 2012 lawsuit makes similar allegations. While the county and the three men have not yet filed official answers to the 2013 suit, the county and Aguilar have denied the allegations in the 2012 lawsuit, while Smith replied that he has “no legal representation or means to get any legal representation.”

Charles did not file an answer to the 2012 suit, according to one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers and to court records.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Ronald W. Armstrong II—who is involved with both the 2012 and 2013 lawsuits—said he has a running list of complaints and potential clients with similar claims about the prison, about five to 10 names. He said that he couldn’t speculate on the total number of women who have similar stories of transgressions at the jail.

The details of the alleged abuse, if true, are disturbing.

At least two of the women were in jail for minor charges, according to their respective complaint documents—one was locked up over a marijuana possession charge that was later dropped; another was arrested on a revoked probation warrant related to an earlier unauthorized use of a motor vehicle offense. The latter woman arrived at the Live Oak County Jail in August 2010, according to the 2012 lawsuit, where she was “sent to the segregation area within the jail.”

One night, when there were no “apparent female jailers on duty,” the document said, Aguilar allegedly went into the woman’s cell and, as Charles watched, “inserted his finger” into the woman’s vagina and “placed his penis” in her face while masturbating.

Shortly thereafter, Smith, “a Corporal and the supervising deputy” at the time, ordered the woman to come to the door of her cell and groped her and digitally penetrated her, according to the document.

During the alleged assault, “a male inmate in the jail at the time yelled out for the deputy to stop the sexual assault” against the woman.

On another occasion, the men allegedly assaulted a second woman, according to the 2012 lawsuit, wherein Charles “placed his penis in her face and inserted his penis in [her] mouth until he ejaculated.” Then Aguilar entered the woman’s cell and “bent over [the woman] and inserted his penis into her vagina. After vaginal penetration Defendant Aguilar inserted his penis in the mouth [of the woman] and ejaculated. Defendant Aguilar then ordered and demanded that [the woman] not tell anyone about the sexual assaults that occurred.”

The woman “was in fear for her life and for additional days in segregation,” according to the 2012 complaint, which adds that the woman requested to go to the hospital and her request was “refused” because she was a “transfer inmate from Jim Wells County Jail” and could not go to the hospital unless Jim Wells County Jail approved.

After the alleged assaults, one of the women told a female deputy about what had happened, according to the document, but the official didn’t believe the accusations. “After the incident was reported, an ambulance was called. The ambulance personnel stated that [the woman] was bleeding a lot,” the 2012 lawsuit alleges.

The jailers allegedly forced her to sign a refusal for the ambulance to take her to the hospital. About an hour later, according to the document, she was sent to Christus Spohn Hospital in Beeville, Texas where a rape kit was ordered and results given to the sheriff’s deputy.

According to the document, the day after the incident, the Texas Rangers began to investigate the sexual assaults and reviewed camera footage.

All three men were allegedly placed on administrative leave the day after the crimes were reported and four days later were arrested and charged with “numerous sex related felony crimes,” according to the document.

In the county’s answer to the 2012 lawsuit, the county affirmed, “After [the woman’s] examination by EMS personnel, she was taken by employees of the Sheriff’s Office to Christus Spohn Hospital in Beeville, where she was treated by a Doctor who ordered a rape kit.”

A month earlier, according to the 2013 lawsuit, the three guards had been involved in the alleged abuse of at least two other women at the jail. Shortly after one of the women arrived at the Live Oak County facility around July 15, “she was approached by a jailer known to her only as ‘Jesse,’” the lawsuit says.

“He warned Plaintiff to stay away from Defendants Aguilar and Smith. Naively, she asked why and he emphasized, ‘trust me, stay away from them. I can’t tell you why, I’d lose my job.’”

Before long, according to the document, “Aguilar, Smith and Charles all assaulted [the woman] in numerous ways over the course of several incidents."

They allegedly told the woman that she was their “sex slave or whatever they wanted her to be.”

“[The woman] was forced to perform various sexual acts on Defendants Charles, Aguilar and Smith, including oral sex and manual stimulation—whatever time permitted for their amusement. These incidents also included their own lewd acts on themselves, including masturbation where Plaintiff was forced to conceal their ejaculate by way of ingestion… during any given attack, there would be from one to three different guards present who were participating or watching Plaintiff being denigrated.”

The second female plaintiff in the 2013 lawsuit says that she was assaulted by “guards placing their hands through the food slot in the cell door and forcing her to lower her pants and undergarments and then anally and vaginally penetrating her with their hands. They would also make [her] show the guards her breasts, buttocks and/or vagina or the guards would withhold food, drink, essential hygiene items, threaten to harm her or take away privileges.”

At some point, the complaint said, the women had to “perform oral sex on each other, touch and grope each other, penetrate each other’s vaginas with their fingers, all while the guards soaked it in, grinning and flicking their tongues out at the humiliated women.”

The jailers allegedly concealed evidence of their abuse because they “were able to operate the camera system and/or seclude the inmates in order to avoid any of the incidents from being recorded. The camera system and security measures employed by the facility were grossly ineffective at preventing violent sexual assaults against female inmates by male jailers,” the 2013 lawsuit states.

The alleged victims said they have suffered, and request “award of the following categories of damages”: physical pain, suffering, disfigurement, and mental anguish, among other issues, according to the complaints.

The plaintiffs in the 2013 lawsuit are demanding trial by jury and monetary compensation, as are the women in the 2012 lawsuit.

Jarom Tefteller, another attorney in the 2013 lawsuit, also spoke with The Daily Beast and commented on the difficulty of the case because of roadblocks in suing government entities.

"These are some of the hardest cases to pursue from a civil viewpoint," Tefteller said. "They're not easy. They're very hard and we've got a hard uphill battle procedurally."

The Live Oak County Sheriff's Department was not immediately available for comment, nor was Phillip McKinney, defense attorney for the 2012 case for Live Oak County.

Assistant District Attorney for Live Oak County James Sales said before his office could investigate the allegations in the 2013 lawsuit the Rangers would have to bring the case to the attorney—as happened in the case of the plaintiffs in the 2012 lawsuit—because the sheriff's department is involved in the defense of the case.