Allegheny County settles jail sex assault lawsuit with another former inmate |

Allegheny County settles jail sex assault lawsuit with another former inmate

Theresa Clift
A woman who wishes to remain anonymous poses for a portrait outside the Allegheny County Jail on May 30, 2017. She filed a lawsuit against the county last year after she says she was sexually assaulted by a guard at the jail.

Allegheny County has paid a settlement to a woman who says she was sexually assaulted by former guard Joshua Reber.

The county paid a $21,000 settlement to the woman, who says Reber sexually assaulted her multiple times while she was an inmate at the jail in 2015, said Amie Downs, county spokeswoman. The payment marks the second settlement this year connected to sexual assault allegations against Reber.

In the current case, the woman, who is not named in the lawsuit, was featured in a June Trib report that revealed the jail is violating a federal law intended to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

During an interview for that story in May, the woman told the Trib she was cleaning a bathroom used by guards when Reber came in and grabbed her butt.

“I was shocked. I was kinda disgusted by it at first because I had heard stories about him and two other females,” said the woman, who was in jail for a probation violation. “I’d be walking past him, and he’d just grab me. I used to work as a waitress, and that would happen to me a lot at my job. It took me to a place where it would bother me.”

Reber started giving her perks like coffee and lip balm. He then began coming in to start his shift early, unlock her cell door, lay down with her and kiss her.

The guard insisted the woman perform oral sex on him, and initiated intercourse on one occasion, the lawsuit said.

According to state law, inmates cannot give consent.

Reber initiated “coerced indecent sexual contact” with the woman at least 10 times while she was incarcerated, the lawsuit said.

Reber was fired from the jail in December 2015 and charged with two counts of institutional sexual assault, a felony. He pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of official oppression.

The county earlier this year paid a $32,000 settlement to Melissa Behanna , another former inmate who said Reber sexually assaulted her while she was an inmate in 2015.

The Trib does not typically name victims of sexual assault unless they wish to be identified. Behanna, via her attorney, gave approval to be named.

A third unnamed woman also sued the county last year alleging Reber sexually assaulted her while she was an inmate in 2015. There has been no resolution yet to that case, Downs said.

The jail continues to violate the U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act until it has an audit done to check whether it is following the rest of the act’s standards. All jails were required to have the audit done by August 2016. Warden Orlando Harper does not plan to have the audit done until 2020, after a healthcare audit, he has said. If the audit is not done by Aug. 19, 2020, the jail will have missed the federal deadline for a second time.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Theresa at 412-380-5669, [email protected] or via Twitter @tclift.

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