Former corrections officer accused of sexual misconduct, rape

An arrest warrant has been issued for a former prison guard with the Colorado Department of Corrections who is facing both civil and criminal charges of sexual misconduct with inmates, including rape.

The corrections officer failed to appear in court on Tuesday for criminal charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a female inmate he used to supervise, according to Denver district court records. A civil suit filed earlier this month accuses the same guard of raping a female inmate while she was in state custody.

District court records show that 37-year-old Lashawn Terrell, a former sergeant at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility, was first charged by state authorities with engaging in sexual relations with an inmate in 2006. The sexual acts were reported to have taken place from June to October that year, according to legal statements in the case.

Court records show that Terrell was arrested for the first offense and incarcerated briefly before being released on a $10,000 bond in November 2006.

The case is still pending, and clerks with the district court confirmed that a warrant had been issued for Terrell for failure to appear for a hearing on Tuesday.

On May 13, Mari Newman with Killmer, Lane & Newman, a legal firm that focuses on civil rights issues, filed a lawsuit against Terrell and the state corrections department claiming that the former guard raped and sodomized an inmate at the women’s correctional facility in 2006 and that the department had failed to act to stop the abuse.

It is unclear whether there is more than one accuser since the names of possible sexual assault victims are redacted before records are made public.

Newman did not respond to a request for comment, but according to the legal brief, Terrell is alleged to have coerced the female inmate into engaging in sexual acts in the kitchen cooler area in the facility during her work assignment program.

Terrell then "proceeded to treat [the inmate] as a virtual sex slave," even though the inmate "told him she did not want to have sex with him," according to the brief. In exchange for the sexual acts, Terrell is alleged to have given the inmate small amounts of "money, stamps, and coffee."

According to the lawsuit, the rapes escalated to a point where the inmate was forcibly sodomized by Terrell and physically injured in the rectal area, causing long-term bowel difficulties. The legal brief states that a cellmate notified department authorities when she noticed the inmate was bleeding upon returning to her cell.

The suit also claims that other inmates at the women’s facility had seen Terrell raping or engaging in sexual behavior with other inmates, and that the corrections department was negligent in letting such things happen in a state facility.

In response to inquires about Terrell and the two legal cases, department spokeswoman Katherine Sanguinetti said she could not comment on pending litigation. The department has yet to respond to the suit in court.

Attempts to contact Terrell were unsuccessful.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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