FRESNO, Calif. (CN) - Two girls housed in juvenile hall were sexually assaulted by two different correctional officers, one of whom has since been arrested on sex-related charges, according to two separate complaints filed in Federal Court.
The girls, both identified in their lawsuits as Jane Doe, were detainees at the James G. Bowles Juvenile Hall, a secure detention facility for minors in Bakersfield, California.
Jane Doe 1 says that officer Cesar Navejar, a named defendant in her case along with Kern County, sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions from Sept. 8, 2014 to Sept. 29, 2014. Navejar was arrested on Oct. 30, 2014 on charges of sexual penetration by force and sexual battery, and is expected to go to trial in January.
Doe 1 says that Navejar approached her in her room on several occasions, where he fondled her breasts and hugged and kissed her.
On one occasion, Navejar "came to plaintiff's room and ordered her to get out of her bed and walk over to him. Navejar then used his finger to penetrate plaintiff's vagina," the complaint says.
"Several minutes later, plaintiff heard knocking on her exterior window. When she looked at the window, she saw Navejar, who was touching the window in a petting motion," according to the complaint.
Jane Doe 2 says that correctional officer George Anderson sexually assaulted her between Sept. 1, 2014 and Jan. 30, 2015 by "hugging her, kissing her, grabbing her buttocks, fondling her breasts, and digitally penetrating her on multiple occasions."
Anderson is a defendant in Doe 2's case along with Kern County.
Anderson also asked Doe 2 "to have sex with him, to orally copulate him, and to masturbate him," but she refused, the complaint says.
Both Navejar and Anderson have been placed on administrative leave, said Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner.
"People are presumed innocent until they have been found guilty. In this case, Mr. Navejar has not been convicted of anything and Mr. Anderson has not been charged with anything," Goldner said.
"The county intends to vigorously defend against both of these lawsuits," she added.
David Cohn, attorney for both of the now-adult women, said that he is very surprised that the county "would allow for that kind of close contact" between male officers and female inmates.
He said both the women have been tremendously affected by the alleged incidents and are receiving counseling.
"They wonder what they did wrong, whether they did something to encourage this, which they did not," Cohn said. "This is something they are not going to get over very easily."
Although Cohn is not aware of any other girls coming forward with accusations against the officers, he said he would not be surprised if some do come forward after the accusations become more public.
"Generally, these tend not to be isolated incidents," he said.
Doe 2 allegedly let the assaults go on for months without reporting them, which Cohn said is not surprising given the fact that they happened in a situation where she was "essentially a captive."
"Our society says that if you're the victim of a sexual assault or you have someone making unwanted sexual advances, you have a right to say no. You have the right to do whatever is needed to repel that perpetrator. You don't have that option when you're a prisoner, when you're an inmate being held in a facility," Cohn said, adding that such accusations by an inmate would likely not be believed.
"These young women who were juveniles were under the perception that by speaking out and by saying something to someone else, they could make their situation more difficult, so they were reluctant to do that," he said.
Cohn said he has serious questions about the kind of background checks the county performs when hiring individuals to work at the juvenile hall with young women.
Although she could not go into detail, Goldner said the county performs "extensive background checks."
She also said that girls at the juvenile hall can report incidents like those alleged in the lawsuits without fear of repercussion.
The girls seek punitive damages.
Cohn said he and his firm, Chain Cohn Stiles, are "going to protect them and do everything we can to not only eradicate these bad apples but work diligently to try to achieve just and reasonable compensation for them."
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