Topeka Two former inmates at a Topeka prison have filed federal lawsuits against the state Department of Corrections, alleging they were forced into sexual contact with two prison employees.
The Topeka Correctional Facility employees at the center of the lawsuit were dismissed by the KDOC after evidence of misconduct surfaced. Both men, TCF plumbing instructor Anastacio Gallardo and corrections officer Nathan VanDyke, were prosecuted in Shawnee County District Court and convicted of having unlawful sexual relations with at least one female inmate at the East Topeka prison, which has about 250 employees and 550 inmates.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Sunday that Jan Lunsford, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections, said the department does not discuss lawsuits that are pending.
John Kurtz, a Kansas City lawyer representing former inmates Tracy Keith and Rebecca Fleetwood, also declined to comment.
In the separate lawsuits filed in mid-May in U.S. District Court for Kansas, the plaintiffs assert that corrections officials responsible for oversight at the prison failed to protect the constitutional rights of inmates to be free from assault by state employees. The women are seeking unspecified damages.
Named as defendants in both cases were Roger Werholtz, former secretary of the corrections department; Richard Koerner, former TCF warden; William Cummings, current TCF deputy warden; former TCF Maj. Joseph Essman; former TCF Capt. Mark Robertson, as well as Gallardo and VanDyke.
The Topeka Capital-Journal published a series of stories in 2009 regarding sexual misconduct at the prison. In response to the stories, the Kansas Legislature elevated the criminal penalty for unlawful sexual relations with a prisoner to a sentence of 31 months to 34 months.