AUSTIN -- Texas' official investigation of a convict's allegations of sexual slavery and torture was a whitewash to cover up the prison system's refusal to stop the abuse, the American Civil Liberties Union charges.
Margaret Winter, Washington-based associate director for the ACLU's National Prison Project, which is representing Roderick Johnson in his lawsuit against Texas prison officials, challenged the recently released findings of an internal inquiry by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice as flawed and erroneous.
Because of that report, she said, a Wichita Falls grand jury recently refused to indict anyone in the attacks against Johnson.
"TDCJ conducted a sham investigation in order to divert attention away from its own culpability," said Winter, Johnson's attorney. "The claim that Roderick Johnson was engaging in consensual relationships with violent predators who were coercing him is ludicrous and is contradicted by the evidence showing his repeated appeals to prison officials and staff" for protection.
"Gangs control life in the Allred Unit. As a gay man, Mr. Johnson's only hope of surviving his incarceration was to submit to sexual slavery."
In his lawsuit, Johnson alleges that he was raped and brutalized by prison gangs over 18 months and that his pleas for help to prison officials were derisively rejected. Johnson, whose case has made headlines around the world and drawn national attention to the prison-rape issue, recently was paroled and is living in Austin.
Asked for a response to the ACLU's charges, Mike Viesca, the prison agency's Austin spokesman, said: "The office of the inspector general, the investigative law enforcement branch of TDCJ that reports to the Board of Criminal Justice, conducted an investigation and provided its findings to the grand jury."
Earlier this month, after reviewing sexual assault allegations against 49 convicts, the grand jury declined to issue any indictments. Prison officials said the grand jury's decision not to act proved Johnson's claims were without merit, and they made public details of their internal investigation alleging that Johnson was a willing participant in the sex acts.
However, Winter said that Johnson's filing of numerous grievances refutes the officials' claims. She noted that prison officials did not interview a single suspect until long after Johnson was moved from the Allred Unit near Iowa Park, where he said the attacks occurred.