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Tentative settlement reached in federal cases involving Clark County jail

A grey concrete building is shown against an expanse of concrete walking space.
Aprile Rickert
A tentative settlement has been reached in three federal cases involving the Clark County jail.

A tentative settlement has been reached in three federal cases involving the Clark County, Indiana jail, following allegations that women incarcerated there were assaulted and intimidated during a security breach in 2021.

The federal cases were filed on behalf of multiple women who say they were assaulted and harassed over several hours in October 2021, after former jail officer David Lowe allegedly made a deal to sell keys allowing men incarcerated there to access the women’s areas in exchange for $1,000.

Attorneys for the women previously said in court filings the women’s rights were violated and that the defendants — including some current and former Clark County Sheriff’s Office employees and administration — did not keep the women in their custody safe.

Attorneys for the sheriff’s office defendants have argued Lowe was not acting under the color of state law, that the defendants are not liable and that the women weren’t assaulted.

Then-Sheriff Jamey Noel also attempted to publicly dispel the allegations through a website launched last year, which appears to have been taken down.

The notices of tentative settlement were filed Wednesday and Thursday by the defendants’ counsel in the United States District Court Southern District of Indiana. The filings don’t give details on the agreements. The documents state that the parties have “reached a tentative settlement agreement that resolves any and all of [the plaintiffs’] claims.”

The notice asks the court to hold off on ruling on any pending motions and pause all deadlines until the settlement is concluded. The tentative settlement agreements come around a month after the parties met in court for a settlement conference without success.

Attorneys could not be reached by phone for comment before publication.

Lowe, the former jail officer, is charged with escape, official misconduct and trafficking with an inmate. His trial is scheduled for January in Clark County.

The alleged breach and assaults occurred under Noel’s administration which ran until the end of 2022. Indiana sheriffs can’t serve more than two consecutive terms. Initial civil court actions named Noel as a defendant. Current Sheriff Scottie Maples, who took office in January, is now included in the complaints.

Separately, Noel is under investigation by Indiana State Police on corruption allegations. To date, there has been no information released linking that investigation to the jail cases. Less than a month ago, state police served search warrants at Noel’s home and three locations of New Chapel EMS, of which Noel is the president and CEO.

State police say the warrants are related to allegations of fraud, tax evasion, official misconduct and ghost employment by a Clark County official, who they have not named. No official charges have been filed.

After his two terms as sheriff, Noel was employed as a major with the sheriff’s office for several months before announcing his retirement in April.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

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