PORTLAND – Two women who sued the Maine Department of Corrections after a prison guard had sex with them during their incarceration have settled the case with state officials.

Nikia Neptune and Leah Estes will receive a total of $125,000 from the state, said their attorney, Benjamin Gideon. The women sued two men who were guards at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, the guards’ supervisors and high-ranking department officials last year in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Neptune, of Indian Island, and Estes, who remains in prison, alleged assault and battery by Bradford Howard. They also claimed negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the Maine Civil Rights Act by Howard and Glen Works.

Howard pleaded guilty to four counts of gross sexual assault in 2008 and was sentenced to four months in jail the next year. He admitted to having sex with Neptune in a closet and with Estes in a room in February 2008.

Works was fined after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of failure to report sexual abuse of a person in custody.

The claims against the guards’ supervisors included failure to train and supervise the guards and retaliation against Estes for making grievances about them.

“We think it’s significant that the state has agreed to pay money to these women. It reflects an understanding that these are serious events and this shouldn’t happen to someone in state custody,” Gideon said.

The two sides reached an agreement after mediation late last month. The case will be dismissed in 30 days if no other filings are made.

Brenda Kielty, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office, declined to comment, saying the matter hasn’t been finalized.

The plaintiffs argued that the guards’ supervisors should have known it was perilous to assign male corrections officers to supervise female inmates. Neptune and Estes were among 70 inmates in the Women’s Center in Windham. Howard and Works were assigned to overnight shifts when no female officers were present.

Associate Corrections Commissioner Jody Breton said Friday that she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit or the plaintiffs’ assertions. She said the department does not discriminate based on gender in making job assignments.

Estes is serving a 17-year sentence for felony murder. She and her boyfriend, Leslie Lynds, stole the car of a woman whom Lynds kidnapped outside a supermarket in Scarborough and beat to death.

Neptune, who had used the last name Brown, was convicted of assault. She was incarcerated in Windham from August 2007 to February 2008.

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

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