It was a snowy day on Feb. 13, 2003. School at Pendleton County High School was canceled that day. An 18-year-old teen borrowed his Dad's car to visit a friend. On his way home he was arrested for speeding and fleeing from the cops. Little did he know at the time, but before he would see his family again he would be assaulted, raped and forced to perform sexual acts on prison inmates.
Two prison guards, Jack Powell and Clinton Sydnor, pleaded guilty in the case. Two other guards, Wesley Lanham and Shawn Freeman, stood trial....and were found guilty. They both face the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison when they face the judge again on Dec. 8.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about five hours Thursday, Aug. 14th before announcing their verdict. Wesley Lanham, 30, of Dry Ridge, and Shawn Freeman, 35, of Irvine, were found guilty of conspiring to violate the teen's civil rights by allowing other inmates to sexually assault him in the 2003 attack. They were also found guilty of obstruction of justice because the jury also found there was aggravated sexual abuse.
"I just want to go home," Freeman cried as about 12 family members and friends of the defendants wept in the courtroom following the verdict.
"We will appeal. You can quote me on that," Lanham's attorney, Dan Dickerson, said.
The convictions are a result of a five-year investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which concluded that the jail was violating inmates' civil rights. The case was prosecuted by Forrest Christian and Kristy Parker of Washington, D.C. The presiding judge was U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves.
The teen's ordeal began when the guards at the jail where he was being booked on the traffic violation decided to teach him a lesson. He was of slim build weighing only about 120 lbs. They made fun of the blond highlights in his hair, they made fun of his satin boxers, they told him he would make a good "girlfriend" for some of the inmates. Instead of putting him a holding cell, as was customary in such situations, he was put in a cell with 14 convicts.
The victim, now 23, graphically described being stripped, hit with jail-issued flip-flops, raped in a shower and then paraded around half-naked. He said the attacks ended only when he bit an assailant. He told the jurors that he thought the risk of being killed was better than continuing to be sexually molested.
"I was thinking, 'Oh, God, here it goes,' " the teen said. "I'm going to die tonight."
Upon learning about the rape assistant jailer Greg Wells, told the youth that he could take care of the molesters for a pack of cigarettes. "That wouldn't be enough," the teen recalled saying to him. All the teen said he asked for was medical treatment from the jail's nurse. His request wasn't granted.
"I told the nurse everything that happened, and I wanted to be checked for any kind of diseases, you know, any cuts or bruises or anything, and she didn't, she didn't do anything."
The jail’s former nurse, Sandra Cook, testified that her attempt to get the teen medical treatment for the assault was stopped by former Assistant Jailer Greg Wells. She said she called the FBI to report the jail staff’s actions when Wells said he would take care of the teen but instead just released him. Greg Wells, was never charged with a crime. It wasn't until the teen was released that he was able to get to a hospital.
In September 2005, the victim settled a lawsuit he filed against Grant County for $1.4 million.