Hickman County and an area law enforcement officer have become the targets of a civil lawsuit filed by a former county inmate. The woman alleges she was raped throughout her eight-month stay at the Hickman County Jail in Centerville, assaults she claims that were perpetrated by the same officer responsible for her incarceration.
In a suit filed on Friday in U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee, the Antioch resident says she was “violently and repeatedly raped and/or sexually assaulted” by Hickman County Sheriff Office's detective Kenny Smith. The suit alleges the harassment continued after the woman was released from jail.
In mid-January of 2008, the plaintiff was arrested by Smith on two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of especially aggravated kidnapping. She was incarcerated from Jan. 17, 2008 to Aug. 26, 2008. During that time the woman claims she was repeatedly raped by the officer. The assaults led to “multiple injuries” but the inmate was “deprived of prompt and necessary physical and psychological medical attention.”
Upon her release in August, the woman claims she continued to “be the victim of oppression and harassment by the Defendant.” The filing says Smith threatened the plaintiff until the end of December 2008. At that point a complaint was filed with the Hickman County Sheriff's office.
In January, WSMV initially reported the TBI was investigating Smith for “allegations of misconduct” involving “prisoners at the county jail.” The specific crime was not identified in the early reporting, but the station's newscast did say photographic evidence of the alleged crime apparently existed and that the allegations included “fondling.”
According to TBI representative Kristen Helm, that investigation is ongoing and is expected to continue for some time. Helm declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation. Should the investigation uncover criminal charges, the TBI will turn its recommendations over to the area district attorney's office.
The plaintiff filed a civil suit before criminal charges were handed down in order to meet the statute of limitations, according to the victim's attorney Phillip L. Davidson.
The suit argues the assault was a “clear violation of due process as is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and her right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment of the United States,” and also is a violation of the “Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.” The filing asks the court to award compensatory and punitive damages of $8 million.
When reached by The City Paper, Davidson declined to offer specifics or detail the evidence regarding the crimes in the jail or after the plaintiff was released. Davidson, who is representing the victim alongside David L. King and Chad M. Ross of King-Solomon, did add the team is looking into whether or not other prisoners were similarly assaulted.
Calls to the Hickman County's Mayor's Office were deferred to the county's legal counsel, Dana Dye. Calls for comment were not immediately returned. The City Paper will update with further information if offered.