A Lafayette attorney on Wednesday filed two lawsuits in federal court alleging long-standing problems with supervision and facilities at the Lafayette Parish jail allowed for one inmate to be physically abused and another raped. The inmate who said he was raped also claimed that two deputies beat him in a secluded hallway.
Attorney Clay Burgess filed the two suits in U.S. Western District Court, marking the third filing in less than a month against Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom and Corrections Director Rob Reardon, all making similar claims and seeking damages.
The lawsuits allege inadequate staffing at the jail — in terms of numbers and performance — fosters inmate violence, rule-breaking and contraband-smuggling. The suits also accuse officials and jail employees of blatantly neglecting inmate safety as the population grew far beyond the facility’s capacity.
Burgess announced the lawsuits in a news release but declined further comment. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.
According to one suit, a former inmate — identified only as L.M. — claims two deputies on May 1 punched him in the jaw, brought him to a secluded hallway without cameras and smashed his face into the ground, breaking two of his teeth, cutting his forehead and causing permanent damage to his eye.
The inmate said the beating by guards followed an incident March 6 in which two other inmates raped him in the shower after booking employees revealed him to other incoming inmates as a confidential narcotics informant when they were booking L.M. into prison for a drug-related crime.
L.M. also claims in his suit that the Sheriff’s Office denied him private mental counseling and destroyed evidence in his initial medical examination after the rape.
In the other suit, a former inmate, identified only as J.H., claims that four prisoners popped the lock to enter his cell on Oct. 24, 2014, and demanded he perform oral sex on them. When the inmate refused, the suit claims, the other inmates physically abused J.H. for the rest of the night.
The suit also alleges that no deputy supervised the inmates at night, often falsifying documents to make it appear that they did; that jail officials knew about the faulty locks but didn’t address the problem; and that no criminal charges were filed against the inmate’s attackers, even though he identified them after reporting the abuse the next day.
Also named in the suit is City-Parish President Joey Durel on allegations that he — like the jail’s employees and officials — had knowledge of the faulty locks for more than a decade.
A third suit Burgess filed on Sept. 28 alleges two inmates repeatedly tried to pop the lock of the cell of a former inmate, Steven Duplechain, before stabbing him in the arm with a homemade weapon.
No attorney had enrolled on Wednesday evening to represent that case’s defendants, who include Neustrom, Reardon, Durel, two deputies and the two men said to have attacked him, Tre’vin Bob and Deangelo Celestine.
On the same day Burgess filed Duplechain’s suit, he announced a $400,000 settlement with the Sheriff’s Office in the case of 42-year-old Jason Brungardt, an inmate hospitalized after deputies beat him.
The two former deputies involved in that case — Michael McSheffrey, 35, and Brandon Gallien, 29 — face criminal charges of second-degree battery and malfeasance in office for allegedly beating Brungardt to the point of fracturing his ribs and puncturing a lung.
At the time of the incident, Brungardt was being held on counts of second-degree battery, aggravated assault and possession of marijuana. Those charges are still pending.
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