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Inmate sues prison guard, accuses him of sex assault

August 11, 2018 GMT

A 28-year-old inmate at the New Mexico women’s prison in Springer is suing a guard she says sexually assaulted her.

The woman’s complaint also says the Corrections Department knew the guard had physical relationships with inmates in the past but didn’t take action until she reported his 2017 attack on her.

Corrections spokesman S.U. Mahesh said in an email the agency takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously but “has not been served or reviewed this lawsuit and cannot comment on specific allegations therein.”

Mahesh said 61-year-old corrections officer Jose Sena resigned from his job effective May 22, 2017, about a month after police interviewed him about alleged misconduct.

Attempts to contact Sena for comment were unsuccessful.

New Mexico State Police opened a criminal investigation into the matter in the spring of 2017, but a spokeswoman for the agency did not respond to a request for an update on the status of the case Friday.

The inmate says in the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court that Sena began bringing her homemade food and other gifts, including jewelry, and would stare at her, follow her around and try to kiss her.

He told her that if she did not give in to his advances, her complaint says, he would “take it out on her and other inmates” and told her he was “angry with her because she was not giving him the attention he desired.”

Sena became frustrated with her lack of interest, the woman’s complaint says, and eventually cornered her and forced her into a staff bathroom where he “groped and battered her,” put his hands inside her clothes, grabbed her breasts and “digitally penetrated” her.

The guard threatened the inmate with retaliation if she told anyone of the attack, according to her complaint, but she “nevertheless” reported him.

A state police report says prison officials learned of the encounter from a confidential informant who reported that Sena had given the woman a necklace, earrings and Coffee-mate coffee creamer, something not available for purchase by inmates inside the prison.

The report details a police officer’s interview with Sena in which he denied having any physical contact with any inmates but admitted he had given the woman a pair of earrings. Sena said he did have feelings for her, the report states, but knew they couldn’t have a relationship while she was an inmate and that he was going to wait for her to get out.

“I’ve never had nothing of that sort with nobody here,” Sena reportedly told the officer, “as a matter of fact I have a problem down there.”

The officer wrote that when he asked if Sena was easily aroused, the guard responded, “no, no, (giggle), it doesn’t really work ya know, I just talk with a bunch of people and it’s not after anything or for favors.”

According to the report, Sena told the officer he had known the inmate’s grandmother, that he had “messed around with her in high school” and that he had children the age of the woman’s father. Sena also said he had known his alleged victim when she was a young child.

Sena went on several tangents during the interview, according to the report, turning the conversation to sexual dysfunction and his previous wife’s death. “He said he and his current wife were off and on, waiting to get a divorce,” the investigator wrote.