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Settlements reached in lawsuits related to 2021 Southern Indiana jail breach

The exterior of the Clark County Jail
Aprile Rickert
Nearly 30 women have settled in federal lawsuits related to a 2021 security breach at the Clark County jail.

Nearly 30 women have settled their claims in federal lawsuits after a security breach at the Clark County jail in late 2021. The final plaintiff, who says she was raped and became pregnant, reached an agreement last month.

Settlements have been reached with nearly 30 women who say they were threatened — including two who say they were raped or sexually assaulted — during a security breach at the Clark County jail when they were incarcerated there in October 2021.

Attorneys for the women have said in the lawsuits the Clark County Sheriff’s Office administration and several employees violated their civil rights and failed to keep them safe when, over the course of several hours, men in custody were able to access the women’s area.

Former jail officer David Lowe is accused of making a deal to sell keys to the men in exchange for $1,000. He’s listed as a defendant in the federal cases and also faces separate criminal charges.

Perry McCall, who with Bart Betteau represented the majority of women who filed suit, told LPM News the settlements can provide some closure for the plaintiffs. But he said going to trial could have had more value — allowing a jury to weigh in on the allegations.

“I was hopeful this case would go to trial, at least one of them, just to air exactly for the public what occurred on that day,” he said.

He also said what happened is the responsibility of the sheriff’s office, and that protocol and procedure to keep people safe weren’t followed.

“When you go into a facility, you think it’s a secure facility. The sheriff in this has an obligation to protect you, and they failed miserably,” McCall said.

Initial filings included Jamey Noel, in his capacity as sheriff at the time of the allegations, as well as Lowe and other jail staff in their individual capacities. Current Sheriff Scottie Maples, who was elected in 2022, is now also listed in filings in his capacity as sheriff.

The defense has argued in court filings that the women weren’t assaulted or harassed.

They also denied accusations that the sheriff’s office failed to implement or enforce policies to keep the women safe.

McCall said he can't discuss the details of the settlements, due to nondisclosure agreements.

The county’s liability insurance carrier is responsible for litigating the cases as well as paying any settlement costs, according to Clark County Attorney Scott Lewis. If any had gone to trial, the company would also handle those costs.

LPM currently has a public records request in to the county for information on the settlement terms.

McCall said he believes the plaintiffs may have felt compelled to take the settlements rather than wait for trial due to financial hardships. He said he doesn't feel the settlement offers were equal to what the women experienced.

Jeff Lowe, who represents the sheriff’s office defendants, declined to comment last month on the pending litigation. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment this week on the cases now that the final plaintiff has settled.

Noel’s administration didn’t dispute that a breach occurred, but disagreed with what the women say happened during it and how long the area was unsecured.

In August 2022, Noel launched a website in response to some of the accusations. It included video clips, photos and other information to “shoot down the lies and deliver transparency to the community” related to the breach.

The site has since been removed.

In an unrelated case, Noel is facing 25 felonies including theft and ghost employment stemming from an ongoing Indiana State Police investigation.

David Lowe, the jail officer accused of selling the keys, is charged with escape, official misconduct and trafficking with an inmate in the criminal case. Online court records show his trial is scheduled for July 23.

This story has been updated.

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

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

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