RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (CN) - A corrections officer in a small Tennessee county used his position of authority to regularly rape female inmates, three women claim in court.
In a lawsuit filed in the Grainger County Circuit Court, Rebecca Burger, Tamara Parkey and Tasha Willard say that while they were prisoners at the Grainger County Detention Facility in Rutledge, Tenn., where they say they were violently raped by prison guards.
They claim that Deputy Sheriff Jessee Cummings coerce female prisoners including the plaintiffs to private areas of the jail, where "he was able to sexually torture, rape and force" them to perform sexual acts including masturbation, the complaint states.
"In a particularly cruel act, defendant Jessee Cummings placed plaintiff Tasha Willard alone with another inmate and forced the two to perform sexual acts on each other while defendant Jessee Cummings looked on, sexually gratifying himself, thereby demonstrating his complete dominion and control over the women," the plaintiffs say.
In some cases, Willard was not able to eat until she exposed her breasts to Cummings, the complaint say, adding that the harassment continued even after she was released from jail.
"Upon Tasha Willard's release from the Grainger County Detention Facility, defendant Jessee Cummings continued to contact the victim through text messages and social media and continued to try and assert dominance over her while he awaited her return to the jail," the lawsuit states.
Burger, Parkey and Willard say other deputies knew about Cummings' actions and allowed it to continue. They describe the alleged assaults "outrageous and beyond the bounds of human decency."
Failed state inspections noted blind spots in jail security cameras, broken locks and a defective surveillance system, all of which made the assaults easier to carry out, the complaint says. It took a November 2013 prisoner escape incident to make improvements, the plaintiffs say.
Burger, Parkey and Willard seek $13 million including punitive damages from Grainger County, Tenn. and sheriff's department employees for rape and sexual torture, conspiracy to commit rape, and infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Troy Bowlin II in Morristown, Tenn.
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