Local inmate sues over jail sexual abuse

Myles Breiner
Myles Breiner

By Zahid Arab - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A Hawaii woman imprisoned in Kentucky says she was sexually abused by a prison guard and claims the jail tried to cover it up. Monday afternoon, Totie Tauala's attorney formally filed seven counts against the corporation that runs the facility.

Tauala is the first to formally come forward of about 19 Hawaii and Kentucky women who make similar sexual abuse allegations. They were all serving sentences at the Otter Creek Correctional Facility in Wheelwright, Kentucky.

A warning: some of the details in this case are disturbing.

Behind bars in Kentucky, in October 2007, is where attorney Myles Breiner says something bad happened. He says a correctional officer walked into his client's cell, masturbated in front of her and then oral sex was performed.

"He did say she initiated human contact, unquote," said Breiner.

That's what the warden's report said, but...

"Because they're incarcerated, it makes no difference. If they beg for whatever happens they cannot consent. It is all involuntary and this correctional officer knew that," said Breiner.

Breiner says the guard was prosecuted and plead guilty. But, under Kentucky law he was given house detention. In Hawaii, that same crime is a felony, punishable up to 10 years. He says other female inmates were also sexually abused. But, at Otter Creek it's not easy to report it.

"They're put in solitary confinement, they're kept past their statutory period to file their complaint and then when they do file their complaint they're told sorry too little too late," said Breiner.

In 2006, the center was also scrutinized after Hawaii inmate Sarah Ah Mau's family said she died after medical attention was ignored. Breiner believes it's time to expose Otter Creek to the tate of Hawaii who put the prisoners there.

"It's important for not only for Ms. Tauala to get her day in court but also send a message to the state of Hawaii that they're responsible for all their citizens," said Breiner.

As a result of the allegations, 168 Hawaii inmates at Otter Creek have been returned to the islands. As for Tauala, she's suing for an undisclosed amount. KHNL/KFVE News made different attempts to reach the jail but were unable to get comment on the case.