LAFAYETTE, LA, October 14, 2015 – Two more lawsuits filed against Lafayette Parish Sheriff today allege jail safety issues. The first Complaint for Damages has been filed against Lafayette Parish Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom, Director of Corrections Rob Reardon and other staff of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in U.S. District Court – Western District of Louisiana by the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess on behalf of an unidentified rape victim being held in custody for non-violent offenses.
A second Complaint for Damages has been filed against Lafayette Parish Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom, Director of Corrections Rob Reardon, Lafayette Consolidated Government, Parish President Lester “Joey” Durel and other staff of the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in U.S. District Court – Western District of Louisiana by the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess on behalf of an unidentified victim of an attack by prisoners who “popped” their locks and used threats and force to demand that the victim perform oral sex on them.
To address media inquiries this release which includes information contained in the public records is being provided along with a link to our website where the full Complaints can be found:
The first Complaint for Damages lodged October 14, 2015 list Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom; Director of Corrections Rob Reardon; two Deputies James Michael Auzenne and Thomas Martin as defendants.
The petition alleges that L.M. advised staff that he was a confidential narcotics informant and begged deputies to him separately from other prisoners. Following this the petition alleges that the deputies openly discussed in front of other prisoners L.M.’s status as an informant. L.M. was then placed in a dormitory style housing unit with several other prisoners and with minimal supervision by staff.
The petition alleges that two unidentified prisoners attacked L.M. from behind while he was in the shower are of the housing unit, wrapped a plastic shower curtain around his head and neck, slammed him against the wall and held him down while brutally raping him. The prisoners while in the act remarked: “This is how rats die.” The petition alleges that L.M was only able to make contact with staff hours later when staff served the next meal. Furthermore, the petition alleges that facility staff not only did not provide adequate supervision and response to the rape of L.M., but rather deliberately failed to preserve and intentionally destroyed evidence.
According to the petition, two months later L.M. would find himself a victim of a brutal attack, but this time by staff. That incident resulted in permanent optic nerve damage and signs of brain damage.
The Complaint alleges “The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has exhibited overwhelming and blatant disregard for the safety of Lafayette inmates, many of whom, like the plaintiff in this case, are imprisoned on non-violent charges then subjected to horrible acts of violence inside the jail walls. In this case, both the brutal rape committed by two inmates as well as the shocking attack on an inmate by a Deputy Officer are chilling examples of the deteriorating situation at the jail in downtown Lafayette.”
At the heart of the complaint are allegations of a widespread pattern of violence resulting from several contributing factors directed at the Sheriff, including:
Excess Prison Population resulting in a breakdown of facility operations and increased violence (Paragraphs 42 – 58)
Understaffing resulting from a failure of appropriately and adequately assess staffing needs (Paragraphs 42 – 58)
Physical Structure inadequacies and the operation of the physical plant in a manner in which it was never intended (Paragraphs 59 – 68)
Failure to Adhere to the Prison Rape Elimination Act including standards related to staffing, employee training, preservation of evidence, screening, retaliation and medical/mental health care (Paragraphs 69 – 89)
Inadequate Classification and Separation of Prisoners (Paragraphs 90 – 97)
Inadequate Supervision, Oversight and Administrative Controls (Paragraphs (Paragraphs 98 – 11) including an internal memorandum by Rob Reardon commenting on concerns (Paragraph 100)
Inadequate Searches and Shakedowns for Weapons and Contraband (Paragraphs 102 – 112)
Inadequate Training (Paragraph 113)
Deliberate Indifference to the Constitutionally Unacceptable Risk of Violence Faced by Prisoners and Staff (Paragraphs 114 – 135) including responses on a wide variety of issues by a deputy sheriff in a deposition
The second Complaint for Damages lodged October 14, 2015 list Sheriff Michael W. Neustrom; Director of Corrections Rob Reardon; Lafayette Consolidate Government; Parish President Lester “Joey” Durel, Deputy Lawrence Willis and an unknown deputy as defendants.
The petition alleges that J.H. was attacked by four other prisoners in the same housing unit following the nightly “lockdown” of prisoners. The petition further states that it is routine and customary for prisoners to manipulate the locking devices on their cells undeterred by staff who routinely do not perform regular health and welfare checks on prisoners.
At the heart of the complaint are similar allegations alleged in the previous petition as well as one filed weeks earlier (Duplechin vs. Neustrom, et al)
An internal memorandum authored by Director of Corrections Rob Reardon which reads: “…the oppressive environment that has to have been either there or constructed by myself resulting in some aspects of this issue.” Reardon would later continue: “I now wonder not only what documents are being forged, but who is being physically abused, not being allowed out of their cell, not being allowed medical treatment, so forth and so on…” Reardon would also state: “My concern is the concept of draconian controls that the middle management believes to be in place. I believe I have played some role in that with the placement of Captain XXXXXX into the jail and then Captain XXXXXX. Both decisions apparently poor ones but the best candidates at the time. It is apparent that either the middle management feels so inhibited or does not have the capacity to bring concerns forward.” Reardon would conclude: “The new entry level employee is supposed to take direction from individuals that they know are falsifying documents or worse. How are the first line level staff supposed to follow any direction given by this middle management group?”
Other suits handled in recent years by the Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess against the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office include:
Rakestrau Vs. Neustrom, et al (U.S. Western District; Docket No.: 6:11-cv-01762)
Thomassee Vs. Neustrom, et al (LA 15th JDC; Docket No.: 2011-2573G)
Howard Vs. Neustrom, et al (U.S. Western District; Docket No.: 6:13-cv-03236)
Please do not contact us regarding this release. No comments will be made outside of what is contained in the public record.
Law Offices of L. Clayton Burgess
605 W. Congress St.
Lafayette, LA 70501