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Inmate sues Jefferson County sheriff after he says jail failed to prevent sexual assaults

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RIGBY — A former inmate has sued Jefferson County, the sheriff’s office and various deputies after he says he was sexually assaulted multiple times while in custody.

The man, whom EastIdahoNews.com is not identifying because he is the victim of a sexual assault, filed the federal lawsuit Nov. 8. It alleges that Jefferson County Jail staff were alerted on Nov. 19, 2019, that Geovanny Reyes-Hernandez and Gabriel Lopez-Montiel sexually assaulted an inmate. Ten days after the complaint, another inmate who filed the lawsuit claims the pair also sexually assaulted him.

“Defendants’ failure to protect (the victim) from reported predators in the jail constitutes gross negligence; reckless, willful and wanton conduct; and deliberate indifference for their failure to take corrective actions to protect the plaintiff,” the lawsuit reads.

The suit specifically names Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson, Chief Deputy John Wolfe, Capt. Nora Ortega, Lt. Joshua Bush, Cpl. Derek Belnap and Sgt. John Clements. The victim is seeking an unspecified amount in damages greater than $75,000 along with attorney fees.

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment due to the ongoing litigation and had reportedly not been served a copy of the lawsuit as of Monday.

How the incidents unfolded

The victim arrived in the Jefferson County Jail on Nov. 21, 2019, and says another inmate warned him some inmates were sexually assaulting others. Eight days after arriving in jail, the victim was allegedly sexually assaulted by Reyes-Hernandez and Lopez-Montiel. The sexual assault left the victim with an injury to his rectum and an “unfixable” injury to his testicles, according to the lawsuit.

The day after the victim was assaulted, Reyes-Hernandez was moved out of the victim’s cell to the cell next door. Jail staff reportedly told Reyes-Hernandez to not enter the victim’s cell again, but according to the lawsuit, another assault occurred.

“It was custom or policy of the Jefferson County Jail to continue to house inmates reported to have committed violent conduct with other inmates, rather than segregating the perpetrating offender from the general population,” the lawsuit reads. “Alternatively, the Jefferson County Jail had no policy or failed to follow any such policy to safeguard vulnerable inmates from inmates who were reported to be engaging in violent conduct.”

The next day, the victim was moved to a holding cell and not provided any medical attention other than being told he could talk with a mental health professional at a later date, according to the lawsuit. It wasn’t until Dec. 2, 2019, in a meeting with a public defender that the victim was directed to request forms to report the assault. He was also taken to a medical facility and examined.

A Jefferson County Sheriff’s probable cause report obtained by EastIdahoNews.com shows detectives were called to investigate the sexual assaults. Investigators were first notified when the victim’s family contacted the sheriff’s office on Dec. 1, 2019, according to the report.

The victim reportedly would not cooperate, according to jail staff. When brought to an interview room with detectives, the victim said he would not talk until he got an attorney and wanted to talk to the American Civil Liberties Union.

A public defender met with the victim on Dec. 2, 2019, and the victim then disclosed the details of the sexual assault. The victim also said he spoke with a supervisor in the jail about the assault before talking with the detective, according to the report.

Jefferson County prosecutors charged Lopez-Montiel in March 2020, and he pleaded guilty in August 2020 to misdemeanor sexual battery. Lopez-Montiel was sentenced to 150 days in jail, for which he received credit with the days served before his sentencing.

Reyes-Hernandez was charged with forcible penetration by the use of a foreign object, according to the lawsuit. The criminal case could not be found in a search for public court records.

“Sometime after being charged, but before any resolution in the case, Reyes-Hernandez was taken into federal custody and transferred to a facility in Post, Texas. On information and belief, he has since been released, and his whereabouts are unknown,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Anderson did not act or failed to act in the training and supervision of his deputies. Bush, Ortega and Wolfe are also accused of not adequately training subordinates. The lawsuit alleges Belnap and Clements failed to act upon the reports of sexual assault inside the Jefferson County Jail.

The Jefferson County Jail is certified by both state and federal officials. Including its policies and responses to sexual assaults.

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