Prison Guard Repeatedly Rapes Inmate; Warden Shrugs: 'Go on Birth Control,' Lawsuit Claims

Human Rights

An Alabama jail guard raped an inmate repeatedly, and the female warden told her there was nothing she could do about it - but put her on birth control, the woman claims in court.
     Olivia Osborne, who was sent to the Birmingham Work Release Center in January 2011, sued her alleged rapist, Vincent Cheatham, warden Shirley Smith and Alabama Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas, in Federal Court.
     Within two weeks of her arrival, Osborne claims, Cheatham began watching her shower, making her cook him meals and forcing her to go on van rides.
     In May 2011, the behavior escalated to assault, when Cheatham "shoved plaintiff against a meat freezer, sexually groped plaintiff and tried to kiss her. Plaintiff sustained a bruised back during the attack," the complaint states.
     "On May 7, 2011, while in the upstairs TV room of the Birmingham Work Release Center, defendant Cheatham forcefully attempted to take off plaintiff's pants with one hand and had a condom in the other hand. Fortunately, another inmate, Shaina Pouncey walked in and defendant Cheatham stopped his assault."
     Osborne says when she filed a report about the two attacks, prison officials changed it to say that Cheatham only tried to kiss her.
     Warden Smith transferred Cheatham to another facility to try to cover up the assaults, Osborne says in the lawsuit.
     But six weeks later, while working at a hotel as part of her program, Osborne says she "ended her shift by locking the pool and taking garbage out to a gated Dumpster. As plaintiff entered the gated fence where the Dumpster was located, defendant Cheatham drove a blue Trailblazer in front of the gate to block her exit. Defendant Cheatham grabbed plaintiff, put her in his back seat, tore her Best Western shirt and forced her khaki pants off. He then proceeded to brutally rape plaintiff through intercourse and sodomy. Plaintiff received bruises on her chest and arms. When defendant Cheatham was done raping plaintiff, he repeatedly said, 'Just relax, that wasn't so bad,' and 'Once you go black, you won't go back.'"
     The complaint continues: For the next four months defendant Cheatham continued to harass plaintiff even though he was transferred to another facility. Aware of the harassment, on October 6, 2011, defendant Smith ordered plaintiff to be placed on birth control. Plaintiff was told that she was placed on birth control for irregular periods. However, plaintiff has never suffered from irregular periods and never asked to be placed on birth control. After plaintiff explained that to defendant Smith, the warden told plaintiff that she was actually put on birth control to prevent a pregnancy from occurring."
     The harassment continued, and Warden Smith eventually decided to put Osborne on birth control, telling her it was to correct "irregular periods."
     Osborne claims Cheatham raped her again in October when he showed up at her workplace and brought her a pineapple mango smoothie form McDonald's.
     She told Cheatham to leave, and he asked for a glass of water, Osborne says in the lawsuit. She claims that when she went to get it, "defendant Cheatham rushed into the kitchen behind her. He threw the plaintiff against the kitchen wall, presses [sic] his forearm against her neck, and proceeded to remove her clothes and rape plaintiff through intercourse. After defendant Cheatham was done raping plaintiff, he grabbed a macadamia nut cookie and walked out."
     Osborne reported the rape to a jail lieutenant and to warden Smith, but "defendant Smith told plaintiff that nothing could be done," according to the complaint.
     Cheatham continued to assault and harass her until July 2012, and raped her again in that span, she says in the lawsuit.
     She seeks compensatory and punitive damages for assault and battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, sexual harassment and deliberate indifference.
     She is represented by Leroy Maxwell Jr. of the Revill Law Firm in Birmingham.

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