LEBANON, Ohio – The Warren County sheriff says explosive allegations against his jail staff are false and so damaging he had to break his silence and speak to WCPO to deny them.
"It didn't happen," Sheriff Larry Sims said Wednesday about a former inmate's claims that she was raped by at least one deputy and denied her prescription epilepsy medication by jail nurses.
"They're lies, is my first reaction," Sims said about accusations in a federal lawsuit filed last Friday. "My second reaction is how this impacts the reputation of the Warren County Sheriff's Office and the members specifically that work here, and the concern is that situations like this are really, really difficult to get out from under."
The former inmate says she was kept naked in her cell, but Sims says she removed her own clothes.
"You're going to find in the investigation files that this young lady at different times had her clothes off. It was of no doing by our staff. I think the investigation will substantiate that," the sheriff said.
The woman's lawsuit claims the jail staff denied her medication and proper medical care for 11 days in 2013, leading to seizures that left her debilitated. The suit says the woman was raped in her cell so violently she suffered broken bones in her shoulder that required surgery, that she was left covered in her own blood and feces, and that staff shut off water to her cell and forced her to drink from a toilet.
Sims said he can not talk about the woman's medical condition, but court documents show that while she was at the Warren County Jail she was sent to two hospitals and Summit Behavioral Health for treatment.
The woman was in jail on charges of taking the identity of another, forgery and deception to obtain drugs. Court records show that another law firm, Repper, Pagan and Cook, had the woman's case but ultimately did not pursue her claims. The FBI investigated and did not file any charges.
The woman's attorney, Jennifer Branch, says she believes her client and the evidence will show that she was raped.
Sims said he takes the accusations personally. He said the woman's claims further erode the public's trust in law enforcement and hurt officers who take pride in honorably serving the public.
He also said he holds his staff accountable and would not defend any acts that violate the law.
"These things hurt not only me personally but the men and women that I care deeply about," Sims said. "It also hits straight to the public trust and again I see what is happening throughout our country and even the missteps that law enforcement officers have made, we take those personal as well.
"We don't condone any such activity and if mistakes are made, we expect to be held accountable. But the other side of that is I take these things personal enough that we're prideful, we're prideful of wearing this uniform and we're prideful of doing our job and serving the public, and if any of these men and women here at this agency would have committed such an act, they already know where I would stand on that and they already know themselves that they will be held accountable," the sheriff said.
"And so it is personal and the last few days have been very, very difficult."
The sheriff's office says it is preparing to release its investigation into what happened - including four days of video from the hallway in front of the booking cell to dispute the woman's claims. We're told that those records will likely be released by Friday.