LINCOLN — A former state prisoner who was sexually assaulted by a corrections officer will be able to pursue part of his lawsuit against a guard and other prison officials, the Nebraska Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The lawsuit by the inmate, which sought at least $150,000 in damages, had been dismissed by Douglas County Judge Michael Coffey after the state asserted that the Corrections Department and its employees were immune from lawsuits.
The Appeals Court, in a 17-page ruling, agreed in part and disagreed in part.
The court ruled the judge was correct that sovereign immunity applies to claims arising out of the sexual assault.
But the court overturned the judge’s rulings regarding the inmate’s claims that he was punished and retaliated against — by being placed in solitary confinement — for reporting the sexual assault.
The court also ruled that the inmate, identified as “D.M.” in court records, could pursue individual claims against the guard, Anthony Hansen, and other prison officials for infliction of emotional distress. The case was sent back to District Court for further proceedings.
The inmate said that shortly after he was sent to the Omaha Correctional Center for theft in December 2011, Hansen threatened to get his good time taken away or place him in segregation if he didn’t engage in sexual activity.
The inmate saved semen from the assault in a napkin, which led to the guard’s conviction.
Hansen was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender. The crime of sexually assaulting a confined person is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
In his lawsuit, D.M. maintains that due to the rape, he suffers from severe emotional distress that will require therapy and psychiatric treatment for years.
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