Trial Starts in Teen Jail Rape Case
Posted by shadmia on August 13, 2008
This story began on Feb.14, 2003 (Valentine’s Day). An unidentified 18-year-old boy was caught and arrested after trying to flee from a state trooper. The teen was clocked doing 35 mph over the speed limit on a narrow, two-lane road (U.S. 27 in Pendleton County, Ky). He was taken to the Grant County Detention Center to be booked on traffic violations.
While being processed at the jail a number of guards began to tease the teen about his appearance. He was about 5′ 10″ and weighed 125lbs. They said he would make a “good girlfriend” for inmates locked up in Cell 101, part of a 300-bed facility housing some very dangerous inmates, located in a far flung corner of the jail. Jail protocol called for the teen to be locked up in a holding cell just off the booking room.
However, the shift supervisor, Clinton Shawn Sydnor, 29 of Falmouth, decided that the teen needed to be scared and taught a lesson so he ordered two of the guards, Wesley Lanham, 30, of Dry Ridge and Shawn Freeman, 35, of Irvine, to tell the group of 14 inmates in Cell 101 to expect some fresh meat.
As the teen was being escorted to the cell in the 300-bed jail, inmates screamed, “He’s such a cutie” and “Bring him to me.” As Sydnor pushed the scared teen youth into the cell yet another inmate yelled “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
In civil litigation, the teen says he was carried overhead by a mob of inmates and led to the showers.
The teen was stripped naked, beaten with jail slippers, forced to perform sexual acts and raped. The brutal attack was carried out right through the night with multiple inmates participating in raping the youth.
“This is a case of a 10th-grader’s worst nightmare,” said Federal Civil Rights prosecutor Forrest Christian.
After the victim told his father he was raped, Sydnor began organizing a cover up, according to court papers. He lied to investigators when he said the victim was locked up with felons because the floor drain was clogged in the drunk tank. He also fabricated shift logs to make it appear guards under his watch were checking on the victim’s welfare but victim wasn’t let out of the cell until the first shift came on duty the next morning. He also threatened a female guard who was considering telling the truth.
All three former guards are facing federal charges of conspiracy, violating civil rights, falsifying records and aiding and abetting. Sydnor is additionally charged with one count of witness tampering. All three guards were fired shortly after the rape. In addition Deputy Jailer Jack Powell of Covington, Ky., was charged with conspiring to obstruct a federal investigation into a civil rights offense. Both Jack Powell and Clinton Sydnor have both pleaded guilty.
Powell pleaded guilty to conspiring with Clinton Shawn Sydnor to obstruct the investigation. He acknowledged signing a typewritten statement that contained both a false justification for the placement of the pre-trial detainee in a general population cell and false statements concerning the completion of cell checks by GCDC personnel. Powell agreed to testify against Wesley Lanham and Shawn Freeman.
Sydnor admitted in court that he conspired with the other officers and with the inmates to violate the teenager’s civil rights, that he knew the teen faced a threat from the other inmates, and that he deliberately ignored that danger. Sydnor also admitted that he had other officers falsify reports relating to the incident. He also agreed to testify against Wesley Lanham and Shawn Freeman. Sydnor faces a possible sentence of 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 8, 2008.
A state grand jury sitting in Grant County declined to indict any guard on duty the night of the attack or the elected jailer, a retired state trooper formerly assigned to the post that investigated the assault.
The trials of Wesley Lanham and Shawn Freeman are now underway with their lawyers claiming that they are scapegoats. Lanham’s attorney, Dan Dickerson, said his client “denies any criminal involvement in this incident and expects to be completely exonerated.”
Freeman’s attorney, Randy Blankenship, said the men on trial are not the culpable ones, adding they didn’t lock the teen in the cell with the convicts. That was done by the sergeant on duty, Clinton Shawn Sydnor. Blankenship said the jail provided little training to Freeman when he was hired a few months before the attack. Freeman is now a firefighter and emergency medical technician living in Erlanger.
He is a man who saves lives, not harms them, Blankenship said.
Freeman wasn’t even at the jail when the attack happened, Blankenship said. He was driving home a female guard who had a seizure at the jail. The woman’s seizure was brought on by the stress of knowing what the convicts were doing to the teen, the prosecutor said. Yet when a trooper showed up to investigate, the woman didn’t immediately come forward with what she knew because the trooper was a friend of the jailers’, Christian said, and she figured there would be a coverup. If convicted, the defendants Lanham and Freeman face maximum sentences of life imprisonment and fines of $250,000.
The teen survived the ordeal and reached a $1.4 million settlement with the county in 2005. The traffic violations against the teen were ultimately dropped. A total of three inmates were also convicted in the sexual assault.
The victim, who is now 23, leads a very non-social life, said lawyer Don Nageleisen, who sued the jail on behalf of the teen. “It is a day-by-day thing for him,” he said. “He stays to himself. He doesn’t go out in public.”