A state inmate formerly imprisoned at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola claims in a federal lawsuit filed this week that he was sexually molested more than half a dozen times by a corrections lieutenant inside a security booth at the prison early last year.
The lieutenant, Tyler Holliday, resigned in March amid the prison’s investigation into the inmate’s claims. Three months later, West Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Holliday.
But Holliday, 23, was not arrested based on the inmate’s claims.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested Holliday after he told them he had masturbated at work, according to the arrest report. They booked him into the West Feliciana Detention Center on a count of malfeasance in office. He posted $20,000 bail and was released a few hours later, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Sam D’Aquilla, district attorney for East and West Feliciana parishes, said he decided not to charge Holliday with a crime.
Instead, Holliday is participating in a pretrial program designed for first-time offenders of nonviolent crimes that does not require an admission of guilt for eligibility purposes, D’Aquilla said.
“Some serious questions of credibility” that emerged during a review of the inmate’s claims, D’Aquilla said, contributed to his decision to offer the pretrial program to Holliday.
Attempts to reach Holliday were unsuccessful. However, a man who identified himself over the phone as Holliday’s father said his son would not be commenting on the matter.
An internal review of the inmate’s claims by the prison, while ultimately deeming the allegations “unsubstantiated,” raised questions about the reliability of Holliday’s account of the story.
The challenges are at the center of the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the U.S. Middle District Court in Baton Rouge. The lawsuit provides a narrative of events that is in stark contrast with Holliday’s statements. It also claims the prison violated federal law by failing to protect the inmate after he told a supervisor Holliday was sexually abusing prisoners.
The inmate is not identified because The Advocate does not identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse. The prisoner was transferred out of Angola to another state prison, where he is serving the remainder of his sentence on a manslaughter conviction.
According to the lawsuit, Holliday forced the prisoner to perform oral sex on eight occasions between January and March of last year. The guard showed the inmate a can of pepper spray and threatened to “put him in a cell and feed him the pepper spray every day” if the prisoner told anyone about what happened, the suit says.
The prisoner did not mention the alleged incidents to supervisors for about two months.
On March 13, the inmate told a supervisor, Assistant Warden Joseph Lamartiniere, that Holliday was sexually abusing prisoners. The inmate did not identify himself as a victim. In fact, he refused to name any victims, according to letters sent to the inmate from the prison summarizing the findings of Angola’s internal investigation into his claims.
Still, the prisoner asked Lamartiniere for a meeting with Warden Burl Cain to provide more details about the allegations.
But the meeting never happened, the suit says.
After making the initial report to Lamartiniere, the inmate was sent back to his same prison block, which, according to the suit, violated the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. According to PREA, prisons “shall employ multiple protection measures” for any inmate who reports sexual abuse — regardless of whether the inmate making the report alleges to be the victim — to protect the prisoner from retaliation. Examples of such protections cited in the law include housing changes or transfers of either the alleged victim or the alleged abuser.
None of that was done until more than a week after the inmate told Lamartiniere that Holliday was abusing prisoners. And before the inmate was transferred out of Angola — and just a few days before Holliday quit — the suit claims Holliday abused the prisoner one final time.
The prison’s internal investigation into the allegations and a subsequent review on appeal determined the inmate’s claims to be “unsubstantiated.”
In letters to the inmate, prison investigators questioned why the inmate initially did not identify himself to his supervisor as a victim of the alleged abuse. The inmate did not identify any victim by name, one letter said, until about two weeks later when the prisoner revealed to investigators that he was the victim.
The letters also noted how some of the inmate’s statements to investigators seemingly didn’t add up. During an interview with investigators, the inmate said he had been sexually assaulted since October 2013 but later said January 2014 was the first time Holliday approached him.
And finally, the letters addressed a key piece of evidence to the prisoner’s claims: a brown paper napkin.
According to the lawsuit, Holliday is accused of forcing the prisoner to spit after each assault and then pouring bleach on the fluids to destroy them. But on one occasion, the inmate claims he spit into a napkin to preserve the fluids as evidence. He presented a part of the napkin to investigators, who sent it to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab to be tested.
The results, according to the letters, came back “inconclusive.”
Joseph J. Long, the inmate’s attorney, said his client was skeptical of the authorities, so the prisoner kept a portion of the napkin and gave it to his attorney in a sealed envelope.
Long said he took the sample to a Baton Rouge DNA lab, which conducted its own test on the napkin. Those test results came back positive for semen, although the lab noted in its report that it could not verify the origin of the sample because “a strict chain of custody was not provided.”
Criminal investigators never asked for the private test results.
“The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab did the analysis for us,” said D’Aquilla, the district attorney. “And I trust them instead of a ‘paid’ agency who is result-oriented.”
When Holliday was confronted by sheriff’s deputies about the napkin, he responded by saying he used it to clean himself after masturbating and then threw it in the garbage. Holliday told them the inmate “must have gotten it and used it in order to try and set him up,” according to Holliday’s arrest report.
As part of the prison’s investigation into the allegations, polygraph tests were administered to both the inmate and Holliday.
The prisoner passed his test.
But Holliday’s results “received no opinion … due to the use of countermeasures,” according to one of the letters.
Countermeasures are techniques used by anyone being interviewed during a polygraph test to manipulate the results in the interviewee’s favor or, at the very least, negate the reliability of a test.
Long, the inmate’s attorney, pointed to the private lab and polygraph test results as reasons to question the outcome of the investigations into his client’s reports of abuse. Long also noted an incident — not referenced in Holliday’s arrest report but noted in the prison letter — where Holliday forced a corrections cadet to expose himself in front of the inmate. Long said the incident was evidence that Holliday was ill-fit to be in a position of authority such as a guard.
Prison investigators said in the letter that the inmate was present and a witness when Holliday “coerced” the cadet to masturbate in the same office in which Holliday was accused of molesting the inmate.
D’Aquilla, the district attorney, said the criminal investigation into the matter remains open. Although Holliday was never charged with a crime, if he were to stop participating in his pretrial program, he would still be subject to criminal prosecution, D’Aquilla said.
Long defended his client’s initial hesitation with identifying himself to his supervisor as the victim of the alleged sexual abuse, saying the delay was prompted by fear and embarrassment.
“He knows what happens when people implicate guards,” Long said.
A review of Holliday’s personnel file indicated he did not have any disciplinary problems during his five years working as a corrections officer at Angola. He was hired as a cadet shortly after his 18th birthday and promoted several times before quitting as a lieutenant.
A DOC spokeswoman said the department’s investigative reports could not be released because of litigation and inmate confidentiality issues. The spokeswoman, Pam Laborde, also said she could not comment on specifics about the matter.
Laborde said in a prepared statement that the agency has a “zero-tolerance policy” when it comes to sexual harassment.
“We have very clear policies and procedures in place in all of our state correctional facilities and handle any accusations timely and in accordance with policies and procedures,” Laborde said.
Laborde also noted that the DOC allows anonymous reports about allegations to be made through Crime Stoppers.
“Results of investigations that could possibly lead to criminal charges are referred to local authorities for further handling as was the case with former LSP employee Tyler Holliday,” Laborde said.
Long, the attorney, said his client is now being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder because of what happened at Angola. PTSD was not something the inmate suffered from before the alleged abuse, Long said.
“As long as he is being treated, they say he is not eligible for trusty work,” Long said. “So he sits and does nothing.”
Advocate staff writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report. Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.