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Settlement negotiations advance in federal cases involving Clark Co. jail

Prison cell bars
A settlement conference has been scheduled for three federal civil cases filed by women who say they were assaulted and threatened by men in custody there in October 2021.

Settlement negotiations have been scheduled in three federal civil cases involving the Clark County jail, stemming from allegations by multiple women who say they were assaulted over the course of several hours in October 2021.

The plaintiffs are women who say they were assaulted and threatened after former jail officer David Lowe allegedly sold keys allowing men incarcerated there to access the women’s areas.

Lowe was charged with escape, official misconduct and trafficking with an inmate, after investigators say he made a deal to sell the keys in exchange for $1,000. That case is ongoing, with a criminal trial scheduled for September.

Attorneys for the women say the men threatened to harm them if they called for help, and say at least two women were raped.

They say their rights were violated, and that the sheriff’s office failed to keep them safe.

“The violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights was the result not only of a single bad actor, Lowe, but also due to a systemic failure on behalf of the Clark County Sheriff who failed to properly staff the jail, train the jail officers, and supervise the jail officers,” according to one complaint.

They say the officers on duty failed to patrol the jail and failed to intervene when they learned men had entered the women’s pods.

Attorneys for the sheriff’s office and officers argue in court filings that Lowe, accused of selling the keys, was not acting under color of state law. They say the defendants are not liable and that the women were not assaulted.

Initial civil actions included then-Sheriff Jamey Noel, who was in office until December after finishing his second term. Scottie Maples, who was elected last year and took office in January, is now listed in the lawsuits in his official capacity as sheriff.

A settlement conference for the federal cases is set for Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. in United States District Court Southern District of Indiana.

If the parties don’t reach a settlement, the cases will continue to trial.

Lowe’s trial in the criminal case is set for Sept. 5 in Clark County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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