Former inmates sue Trumbull Co., claiming sexual misconduct

The two women earlier filed a formal complaint with the sheriff.

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County has a civil lawsuit on its hands. Two former jail inmates, Michelle Rafferty of Niles and Katie Sherman of Madison, say the county did not do enough after they filed a report of sexual misconduct.

Thursday, Sheriff Thomas Altiere said the sexual misconduct did not happen.

The women claim Charles Drennen, a former Trumbull County corrections officer, sexually assaulted them. The lawsuit describes the incidents the women said happened while they were in jail in 2013 and 2014.

The women said during night rounds, Drennen would often engage in sexual misconduct and would tap on the cell windows with his flashlight to get the women to ‘perform’ for him.

The complaints go on, stating Drennen would conduct strip searches, taunt the women, perform sex acts on himself in front of female inmates and then bribe them not to say anything.

The lawsuit says Drennen exploited female prisoners for his “personal sexual gratification,” and that he threatened and intimidated inmates.

The women are suing the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Thomas Altiere, the Trumbull County Commissioners, Lt. Eric Shay, along with other correctional officers and Sheriff’s employees.

The former inmates say Altiere and Shay were not following their administrative roles to protect the inmates and the commissioners are named because of their positions of authority over the jail.

When the former inmates submitted a formal complaint of sexual misconduct, they say they were labeled as ‘trouble makers’ and treated poorly. But, Sheriff Altiere said the department launched an internal investigation as soon as the inmates filed the formal complaint about two years ago.

“We covered every step that we could cover. As soon as we heard about it, we did everything right. We did everything that we should do, so we’ll have to let it play out in court,” Altiere said.

Drennen resigned in May of 2014 when he was asked for a polygraph test. He was not charged with a crime, because there was never any evidence against him, according to Altiere.

The attorney for the two women did not return WKBN’s requests for comment Thursday.

The women are asking for attorney’s fees and money for what the suit calls “severe and permanent injuries, including great physical, emotional and psychological pain and suffering” for violations of their constitutional rights.

The defendants are required to submit an answer to the court within 21 days.

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