Erik De La Garza
LITTLE ROCK (CN) – An Arkansas prison chaplain raped an inmate once a week for 18 months, as “special training” to be “a true woman of God,” the woman claims in a lawsuit against prison officials and the chaplain — who is now in prison himself.
The former chaplain, Kenneth Dewitt, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault with an inmate and is serving a five-year sentence. State prosecutors had charged him with 50 counts of assault before his July plea deal. Dewitt, 77, an Evangelical minister, sexually assaulted at least three inmates, according to Arkansas press reports.
In her Nov. 28 lawsuit, Leticia Villareal claims Dewitt supervised her in a faith-based prison program, then sexually assaulted her every Monday for 18 months inside his locked office while she was a prisoner at the McPherson Correctional Facility in Newport, Ark.
She claims the abuse began when Dewitt offered her an “opportunity for advancement,” which turned out to be “sexual training in order to be a true woman of God.”
Despite her objections, she says, Dewitt ordered her to come to his office every Monday at 6 a.m. for her “special training,” where he would “digitally penetrate and rape her.”
She says this occurred 72 times.
“If plaintiff's menstrual cycle coincided with Dewitt’s scheduled Monday rape, then Dewitt would only demand oral sex from plaintiff. When plaintiff was not menstruating, then Dewitt would demand oral and vaginal sex,” she says.
“Plaintiff repeatedly told Dewitt she did not want his ‘training,’ [to] which he replied ‘It’s not your choice.’ Dewitt stated she should be grateful to him ‘training’ her and that maybe she can be a missionary in Mexico,” according to the complaint.
Villarreal says he piled on emotional abuse while he raped her.
“Dewitt would say degrading and abusive things to the plaintiff while he raped her, and would act violent and aggressive toward her, such as calling her his ‘Mexican whore,’ and ‘my Mexican,’” the complaint states.
She says Dewitt threatened to lock her down in segregation, warned her she would never be released from prison if she ever told anyone, and that nobody would believe her anyway.
“He also stated, ‘You are a criminal from Mexico and no one will help you here but me so you better do as you are told,” the complaint states.
Villareal was sentenced to 40 years in 2005 for a “controlled substance violation,” she says in the lawsuit.
She says Dewitt told her he had herpes from his “glory years” as a “playboy,” but that prison medical staff did nothing but insult her requests for help, referring to a sore in her mouth “as a ‘lie bump,’” and refusing to report her sexually transmitted infections to prison officials.
She says the sexual assaults, which lasted from January 2013 to July 2014, took a toll on her well-being, causing her to spiral into a deep depression and contemplate suicide.
Dewitt resigned in September 2014 after acknowledging he was having an affair with a former inmate, defendant Stacy Smith, who was also the assistant chaplain, according to the complaint.
Arkansas State Police reported that Dewitt subjected three female inmates, including Villarreal, into sexual relations while he served as chaplain. The U.S. Department of Justice also investigated sexual abuse and harassment allegations by staff at the McPherson Unit.
Villarreal seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, negligent training and intentional infliction of emotional distress for “allowing her to be raped by defendant Dewitt and by facilitating Dewitt in raping her, and by failing to prevent Dewitt from raping her.”
She is represented by Joseph LaCome of Springfield, Mo.
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