Louisiana prison officials and attorneys are trying to evade culpability in the rape of a 14-year-old juvenile inmate by claiming that the girl had a consensual relationship with the guard who molested her. According to the Tri-Parish Times, prison officials claim the victim consented to and sought out sex with now-incarcerated corrections officer Angelo Vickers during her imprisonment, an assertion that is at odds with Louisiana law, which stipulates that minors under the age of 17 do not possess the necessary judgment to consent to sex with adults.
The girl — now 20 years old and a mother of two — sued Terrebonne Parish for the rapes and for the trauma she suffered during and after her sentence. Known as Mary Doe, her case is now before District Judge George Larke, who is set to decide whether the parish should be liable for the prison guard’s actions.
Advocates for the prison say that Mary Doe was eager for the attentions of her male jailer, that she would violate rules in order to be placed in isolation so that he could have greater access to her alone.
“These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin,” one anonymous official told the Times.
Lawyers for the parish filed papers in court that said, “Vickers could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with [the victim] without cooperation from her. Vickers did not use force, violence or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.”
“The defense has no basis in law,” said Marci Hamilton, Mary Doe’s attorney and a nationally known advocate for rights of victims of sexual assault. “She is a victim of statutory rape. The age of consent in Louisiana is 17. The defense is also offensive to sex assault victims everywhere.”
Hamilton, who was once a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, is a professor at Benjamin Cardozo Law School in New York. She argued that under the state’s law, no 14-year-old can consent to sex, particularly not with a corrections officer who can monitor and control her life 24 hours a day.
Doe came to the detention facility with a history of abuse. The Timesreported that she was sexually molested at the age of five by a swimming instructor and again at the age of nine by a construction worker.
Also when she was nine, the girl’s mother was killed in a car accident, leaving the girl in the custody of her uncle, who repeatedly raped her and plied her with alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine to make her more compliant. Court papers say that he attempted to murder her on three different occasions, once slitting her throat.
At eleven years of age, Mary Doe was raped by her step-sister’s cousin. Between the ages of 10 and 18, she spent the bulk of her time behind bars in correctional facilities.
Parish lawyers told the court that the girl’s history is part of why they believe the relationship was consensual. Assistant Parish Attorney Alexander “Kip” Creighton III said that it wouldn’t be fair for Terrebonne Parish to pay for problems “it didn’t create.”
Katie Schwartzmann, director of the New Orleans office of the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “The parish’s argument that a 14-year-old child could consent to sex with an adult in any context is disturbing. In the jail or prison context, power dynamics between children and adults are even more skewed. When a child is in custody, guards have complete coercive control over every aspect of that child’s life. The argument that a child could consent to sex with an adult prison guard is, frankly, shocking.”
Vickers, 49, was arrested in 2011 and charged with four counts of juvenile molestation and sexual malfeasance in office based on his conduct with Mary Doe and other girls. He is currently serving a 7-year term in state prison after pleading guilty to one count of molestation.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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