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Lawsuit alleges Georgia prison supervisor raped women inmates

Story highlights

  • Capt. Edgar Daniel Johnson also faces criminal charges in relation to the alleged assaults
  • Attorney says his client professes his innocence and that evidence has cast doubt on claims
  • At least three women allege they were sexually assaulted and threatened to keep them quiet

(CNN)Casey Mincey says when she first met the correctional supervisor of Swainsboro, Georgia's Emanuel Women's Facility in 2012, he seemed like a nice fellow.

Mincey, 35, who served three years for identity fraud, was tasked with cleaning the medium-security prison's mental health wing. Capt. Edgar Daniel Johnson's office was on that wing, she said, and in the beginning, their interactions were innocent enough.
    They'd chat about the Bible. He'd ask the mother of six about her children, and she'd share stories about her daughter.
    In October 2013, though, the friendly chats progressed into compliments on her looks, touches, kisses on the head and then hugs, she said. It was during one of those hugs, she alleges, that Johnson's hands slipped down her pants -- and things got only worse from there.
    "That's when I noticed he wasn't fully within the guidelines of the system," Mincey told CNN.
    CNN normally does not name sexual assault victims, but Mincey agreed to make her name public in hopes of emboldening other women to come forward.
    Johnson was arrested in May and charged with 11 counts of sexual assault on a person in custody. A few months later, investigators told CNN affiliate WTOC that more women had leveled accusations, claiming they were assaulted by Johnson, who is out on bond.
    On Monday, a lawyer representing Mincey and two other victims discussed details of a civil rights lawsuit filed in December against Johnson, other prison administrators and the Georgia Department of Corrections.
    Asked why his news conference came almost two months after the filing, attorney Walter Madison noted it was filed two days before Christmas and the women "were in the process of getting their strength together."
    The lawsuit is about getting justice for the women and also about erasing a culture, he told reporters.
    "These women are all nonviolent offenders, being sex slaves and abused in such a horrendous, deplorable fashion was never part of their sentence," Madison said.
    State offices were closed Monday for Presidents Day, so DOC officials were not immediately available for comment. CNN has been unable to independently determine whether the state has filed an answer to the lawsuit, but the plaintiff's counsel tells CNN none has been filed.
    Attorney Kendall Gross, who represents Johnson in the criminal proceedings, said his client "has always maintained his innocence." He did not elaborate but said he'd be available to talk more Tuesday.
    "At the preliminary hearing, several pieces of evidence were uncovered that cast doubt on the allegations made against him. Capt. Johnson looks forward to his day in court, and he is confident that he will be acquitted," Gross said in an email.
    Mincey claims that Johnson raped her on six occasions, according to the lawsuit. The assaults all occurred near his office door so Johnson could see if anyone entered the mental health wing during the assaults, she told CNN.
    Another woman involved in the lawsuit said she, too, was raped six times, while a third alleged victim claims she was sexually assaulted "on several different occasions beginning in April 2011 until March 2012," the lawsuit says.
    The women also claim Johnson threatened them to keep them quiet.
    In Mincey's case, she told CNN, Johnson threatened to keep her from seeing her youngest child and to block her transfer to Atlanta's minimum-security Metro Transitional Center, a facility nearer where her children lived.
    Johnson told her they were simply helping each other out, that "he knew people at other facilities who could make that happen," Mincey said, but she didn't see the quid pro quo.
    "I really felt like I was helpless," she said.
    One of the other women also alleged in the lawsuit that Johnson used her children as leverage and threatened her with solitary confinement. A third woman said Johnson threatened to block her early release and to send negative reports to the parole board, the lawsuit says.
    When inmates filed grievances, they were forwarded to Johnson, according to the lawsuit, and the correctional supervisor "would force inmates working under his control to throw away and/or shred the grievances, preventing the women from utilizing their administrative remedies."
    Madison claims other correctional officers helped Johnson cover up his acts, and when one female corrections officer spoke up about the alleged assaults, Johnson "found ways to justify removing her from the facility." He called Johnson's behavior "an open secret" at the prison.
    "He raped these women physically and psychologically," Madison said. "It's unfathomable that all these abuses could occur, and no one knew anything."
    Mincey said Johnson quit assaulting her when she requested a change of detail so she wouldn't have to clean the wing housing Johnson's office. There were no consequences for changing details, she said, but "it still wasn't good."
    She'd see him around the prison, she said, and it would "trigger something in me. I always kind of teared up and turned my head. He'd call my name, but I still kept walking. It still makes me uncomfortable to talk about it."
    Mincey still attends counseling, and though she's learning to cope, she has trust issues. She sees men as predators and won't allow any of her three daughters to be alone with men, even her sons, she said.
    Among the lawsuit's demands are compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees, and sexual harassment training for inmates and DOC employees, as well as the establishment of a task force aimed at ensuring "no further abuses to inmates exist."
    Madison said he couldn't provide a ballpark figure on the damages his clients seek. That's up to a jury, he said.
    "I can't find a number that could fully make whole these women's dignities," he said.