A 39-year-old woman who was an inmate at the Sacramento County Main Jail has sued the county and five individuals, claiming she was repeatedly raped by a lesbian sheriff’s deputy.
The divorced mother of two spent nearly 3½ years in the jail, charged with submitting a fraudulent insurance claim, attempted grand theft and failure to appear. She was sentenced June 11 to four years and eight months and paroled the next day, never serving a day in prison.
Her lawsuit was filed Monday by attorney Stewart Katz in U.S. District Court. The Bee is not naming the plaintiff because she claims to be a victim of sexual assault.
Deputy Paula Sue Wood, 42, is described in the complaint as “a pathologically aggressive lesbian … who, at her request, was assigned to work at a female housing unit in the main jail. She had successfully resisted several suggestions that she change assignments.”
An inmate reported what was going on in January 2007, and an inquiry by jail staff was undertaken, the suit says. “No one attempted to speak to (the plaintiff) during the course of this investigation,” it charges. “Not only was Deputy Wood quickly cleared, but apparently the reporting inmate received discipline for bringing a false complaint against an officer.”
But three months later a former jail inmate reported the situation to the internal affairs unit at the Sheriff’s Department.
The deputy was placed on administrative leave in late April 2007, and eventually allowed to resign. She was charged with having sex with an inmate, pleaded no contest, and was adjudged guilty May 28 by a Superior Court judge.
Wood was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in a work furlough program, meaning she can leave the jail to go to her place of employment and report back when she is not working. Following her completion of the program, she will be on unsupervised probation for three years.
She was ordered by Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie to stay away from the victim.
Wood refused to talk to a reporter after the hearing.
The suit says the plaintiff first had an awareness Wood “was becoming obsessed with her when, while in the control room of her housing unit, Deputy Wood held up a sign stating, ‘You fascinate me.'”
Wood coerced the heterosexual victim into having sex in August 2006, the suit says. She estimates that between then and April 2007 she was compelled more than 20 times to engage in sex with Wood.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages. In addition to the county and Wood, it names as defendants former Deputy Clement M. Tang; Sheriff John McGinness; Capt. Scott Jones, who has been the jail commander since January 2007; and Chief Deputy Mark Iwasa, who preceded Jones at the jail.
The 54-year-old Tang, described in the complaint as “an opportunistic heterosexual,” is accused of French kissing (the plaintiff) “while she was the sole occupant of a holding cell awaiting a court appearance.”
Reached Tuesday by phone at his south Sacramento County home, Tang declined to comment. Tang, a 27-year veteran of the department, retired when faced with the allegations.
The lawsuit contends that the Sheriff’s Department “has a custom and practice of dismissing reports of inappropriate coercive sexual acts by deputies of either gender, whether in the jail or elsewhere, as being consensual conduct.”
However, where once there was a stream of lawsuits over inmate treatment, they have been scarce since McGinness assumed command of the Sheriff’s Department two years ago and put Jones in charge of the jail.
McGinness and Jones defended the department’s handling of the allegations against the deputy.
“Every time we heard this might be going on, we investigated,” McGinness said. “When we were able to get hard evidence, we moved swiftly to rectify the problem.”
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