More than a half dozen inmates involved in assault on guard at Bridge City youth center, lawyer says _lowres

Mugshot from Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office

A sexual assault on a female guard at the Bridge City Center for Youth last month was a “premeditated” attack involving more than a half-dozen inmates, the woman’s attorney said Thursday, raising new concerns about the safety of employees and juveniles at the state-run detention facility.

The attorney, Laurie Maschek, said in an interview that her client has been sidelined indefinitely with injuries from the May 28 attack, and she fears the woman could develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

“You can see the handprints on this lady that took the form of bruises,” Maschek said, adding the woman also received abrasions on her legs and upper thighs. “A group of about seven criminals got together and decided that they were going to attack my client.”

Authorities booked Christopher Conner, 18, of Marrero, and Romone Andrus, age and hometown not disclosed, on sexual battery counts.

They accused Andrus of standing behind the guard and restraining her arms behind her back while Conner reached inside her shirt and touched her breast.

Conner also is accused of grabbing the guard’s buttocks and vagina through her clothing and trying to pull off her belt. The woman managed to fend off the youths before her pants could be removed.

“My client did her best to fight against this,” Maschek said. “She was a victim here, but she did everything necessary to protect herself.”

Beth Touchet-Morgan, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Juvenile Justice, said seven inmates and one other guard were inside the dormitory at the time of the attack. She said investigators found probable cause to book Conner and Andrus, but added that “any other youth involved will be processed through the Youth Code of Conduct process, which holds youth accountable for negative behaviors” at the detention center.

Maschek questioned the state’s response to the attack, saying the other youths involved should at least be charged as principals even if they did not directly grope the guard.

“There was a whole lot going on,” Maschek said. “It wasn’t just a single incident. It wasn’t just a single touch. There were a lot of people involved, and everybody was getting in and getting their shot at it.”

“She was literally being held back so that the other people could have their way with her,” she added.

Maschek said there is video of the attack but it’s of poor quality. She said the teens propped up a sofa inside the dorm in an attempt to block a surveillance camera.

The attack came amid a turbulent time for the Bridge City facility, which has suffered from chronic staffing shortages. An Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge recently ordered two youths to be relocated to another detention center because of the chaotic conditions at Bridge City, including a series of brawls. Inmates also have managed to climb onto the roof of the facility at times.

Touchet-Morgan said the detention center has “recently undergone an assessment by the Missouri Youth Services Institute, an organization recognized as experts in delivering therapeutic treatment in secure juvenile facilities.” State officials “will develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address any concerns” raised in the report, she said.

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