Former York County Jail corrections officer Jonathan Carpenter, York County, Sheriff William King and Jail Superintendent Michael Vitiello are named in a federal civil lawsuit filed by a woman who was sexually assaulted while an inmate at the jail. Carpenter, who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charge in April, is serving one year of a five-year sentence in connection with the criminal case. COURTESY PHOTO

ALFRED — A female inmate who was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer at York County Jail in October 2016 has filed a federal civil lawsuit against the man who assaulted her, York County government, Sheriff William King, Jail Superintendent Michael Vitiello and another unnamed corrections officer.

Corrections officer Jonathan Carpenter was working his shift when he assaulted the woman. He was indicted on a gross sexual assault charge in June 2017, and pleaded guilty to the Class B felony charge in April. He was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but one year suspended, followed by three year’s probation. He is currently incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Upon his release he will be required to register as a sex offender.

The seven-count complaint, filed Oct. 1 at U.S. District Court in Portland, alleges then-corrections officer Carpenter, the county, the sheriff and jail superintendent violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights and further alleges the county failed to adequately train corrections staff to prevent sexual assaults.

“Defendants County of York, William King and Michael Vitiello have failed to adequately develop policies and procedures for training corrections officers  so as to prevent sexual assaults on female inmates,” attorney Heather Gonzales wrote on behalf of her client. “These insufficient policies and procedures are the cause of and the moving force behind the deprivation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights and caused extreme emotional distress to plaintiff, including but not limited to an attempted suicide, flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, and depression.”

Carpenter was employed at York County Jail from Sept. 21, 2015 to Jan. 13, 2017, when he resigned, according to county records.

The victim was serving a six-month sentence for violating the terms of her probation on another charge when the incident took place.

The Journal Tribune does not name victims of sexual assault without their consent.

According to the lawsuit, it was only after she was transferred to Cumberland County Jail in Portland that she felt safe enough to report the sexual assault.

She said Carpenter was aware there were no surveillance cameras inside the Administrative Segregation Unit where she was incarcerated  when he pulled her to him and kissed her on Oct. 2, 2016. According to the lawsuit, Carpenter heard someone approach and left, but then returned about 30 minutes later and sexually assaulted her.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was afraid Carpenter would retaliate and initially denied the sexual assault when questioned by jail employees.

Four days after the incident, the plaintiff attempted to commit suicide by hanging herself from the ceiling due to the severe emotional distress, the court filing claims. Jail personnel found her and were able to intervene and save her.

Gonzales said her client relocated out of state following her release, to Arizona, according to the lawsuit.

“She’s still shook up,” said Gonzales by telephone on Tuesday.

The plaintiff is seeking unspecified monetary damages, punitive damages, costs and attorneys fees from all defendants. She has requested a jury trial.

Once they have been served paperwork formally notifying them of the lawsuit, the defendants have 21 days to file a response, according to a clerk at the federal court.

Sheriff William King declined to comment on the lawsuit and County Manager Greg Zinser did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.

Regarding Carpenter’s sexual assault conviction in April, King said, “(the incident is) certainly not reflective of the fine men and women that work for the York County Jail.”

The jail has stringent hiring guidelines, he said, that include requiring prospective employees to undergo  a polygraph exam. King said Carpenter, who previously worked elsewhere as a corrections officer, took a polygraph exam prior to being hired at the jail.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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