A female prison inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against the Maine prison guard she says sexually assaulted her.

The suit also names as defendants the state and prison officials who she alleges failed to protect her from the assaults.

The woman’s Bangor attorney filed the suit in U.S. District Court Wednesday.

It alleges that the guard, Joshua Dall-Leighton, assaulted the woman several times in a prison van while taking her from the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred to her job. She said Dall-Leighton pursued her repeatedly while she tried to avoid contact with him.

The suit asks for unspecified actual damages and punitive damages. Prison officials, including Joseph Fitzpatrick, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and two prison wardens, are named because the woman alleges they deprived her of her rights. It also names another prison guard who, the woman said, tried to help her avoid Dall-Leighton, but failed to report the allegations of sexual assault.

A woman who is suing Joshua Dall-Leighton, shown in 2015, claims he assaulted her several times in a prison van while taking her from the Southern Maine Re-entry Center in Alfred to her job. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Dall-Leighton was indicted on a charge of sexual assault in November after an investigation by the Maine Department of Corrections. The criminal case against him in York County Superior Court is pending and Dall-Leighton’s lawyer, Neal Weinstein, said it is currently scheduled for trial in August.

Dall-Leighton received widespread attention in 2015 for donating a kidney to a woman who advertised her need for a new organ in the back window of her car.

Attempts to reach Ezra Willey, the Bangor attorney who filed the suit, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Fitzpatrick did not return a message left on his assistant’s voicemail or reply to an email seeking comment Wednesday.

Weinstein said his client denies the allegations and said the suit is “a scam” designed to win the woman better treatment in prison, an early release or a better deal in any criminal cases pending against her.

He said another inmate has convinced other female prisoners to contact Willey and file sexual assault lawsuits.

“They’ll do anything to get a better deal in jail or to get out sooner,” he said.

The woman who filed the suit was serving time for assault, he said, and the inmate who steers the inmates to Willey has “a history of criminal violations a mile long.” The suit details the woman’s alleged interactions with Dall-Leighton over the course of four or five months beginning in late 2015. She said the guard made suggestive comments toward her and then arranged to be the person in charge of driving her to and from her work assignments outside the re-entry center. On several occasions, she said, he drove her to secluded spots where the alleged sexual assaults took place.

The woman said she tried to avoid contact with Dall-Leighton and at one point got drunk so she would be sent back to prison from the re-entry center.

The woman said the contact continued when she was home on furloughs. Dall-Leighton called her repeatedly, she alleges, to the point where family members complained that he was interrupting their time together.

Those contacts became sexual, she said, with explicit texts and photos exchanged between the two. The woman said she felt pressured to comply with Dall-Leighton’s efforts to make the communication sexual.

Although the woman’s name is in the suit, the Portland Press Herald does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at:

[email protected]