This story has been updated since its original publication.
POMEROY — A Garfield County man has filed a civil rights lawsuit claiming the county failed to protect him from multiple forcible rapes by another inmate while he was held in the county jail.
According to a complaint filed Tuesday in Walla Walla County Superior Court, the plaintiff was held in the Garfield County jail in August 2011, and placed in a cell with John Markwell.
Markwell became abusive and intimidating and the plaintiff informed jail personnel he feared for his safety, according to the complaint.
Beginning on Aug. 20, 2011, Markwell forcibly raped the plaintiff at least three times. Markwell was charged with three counts of forcible rape and on May 9, 2012 was convicted by a jury.
As a persistent offender, Markwell was sentenced to life without parole and is currently housed at the Washington State Penitentiary.
The Union-Bulletin is not naming the plaintiff due to its policy of not naming victims of sexual assault.
The plaintiff was initially being held in the jail on charges of rape of a child and child molestation. He pleaded guilty to both charges and is currently serving a sentence of 10 years to life at Monroe Corrections Center.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiff contends he has suffered and continues to suffer from severe emotional distress, including anxiety and nightmares as a result of the Garfield County Jail rapes. He is seeking an unspecified amount for damages.
“People who are incarcerated are extremely vulnerable. Prison rape and jail rape are huge problem,” Lee Rousso, the plainiff’s attorney, said in an interview Wednesday. “From my perspective these are extremely serious allegations, and I hope that Garfield County will take them seriously.”
County Prosecutor Matt Newberg said this morning that the case would be defended by the county’s insurance provider, the Washington Counties Risk Pool. He said he was not aware of any jail procedures or policies that were changed as a result of the plaintiff being raped by Markwell while in custody, and had no other comment on the lawsuit.
Garfield County Sheriff Ben Keller did not respond to multiple calls and an email seeking comment on jail policies as of this morning.
Walla Walla County has jurisdiction over the suit because Washington State allows plaintiffs to file suits against a county in either of two neighboring counties. Because Garfield County shares a single Superior Court judge with Columbia and Asotin counties, plantiffs may sue Garfield County in either Walla Walla or Whitman counties.
This law exists to avoid having cases adjudicated by judges who are employed by the county being sued.
Rachel Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-526-8363.
This article was updated on Aug. 14. 2014 at 7:50 a.m. to clarify that Markwell's forcible rapes of the plaintiff began on Aug. 20, 2011.