Ex-inmates: Officers coerced sex acts

Published 9:09 am Friday, April 22, 2016

Ten former jail inmates have jointly filed a lawsuit in federal court against Berrien County and four current or former employees of the sheriff’s department alleging sexual abuse and other misconduct occurred over at least a six-year period.

In a lawsuit filed April 5 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, nine women allege that specific officers used their positions to coerce them into performing sexual favors in exchange for money and other benefits while they were inmates at the Berrien County Jail.

One of the women alleges an officer gave her the wrong medication and then refused to tell her what type of medication she ingested.

The suit alleges that the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department failed to adequately monitor its employees, respond to complaints by prisoners and investigate allegations.

In a prepared statement released to the media Thursday, Sheriff Paul Bailey said his office is aware of the lawsuit but had not been served with it as of the time of the release.

“The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office denies any wrongdoing or prior knowledge of any of the alleged misconduct,” the release stated. “All Berrien County Sheriff’s Office employees are held to a high standard and we will continue to serve the residents of Berrien County with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity. No further comment will be made at this time due to this pending lawsuit. An investigation was conducted in 2015 and there was no evidence of any alleged misconduct occurring inside the Berrien County Jail.”

The four individuals named as defendants in the lawsuit are Sgt. John McCoy, Sgt. Brett McCrew, Deputy Keegan Trail and Deputy David Lee.

Two women made allegations against Trail, three against McCoy and six against McGrew. Although Lee was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, no allegations against him are included in the lawsuit.

Three of the four defendants are no longer employed with the department. McGrew and Trail resigned and McCoy was fired, all due to their conduct while not on duty, according to the sheriff’s office release.

Lee remains employed with the department.

The women are seeking damages exceeding $75,000. The plaintiffs are: Amber Slaughter, of Niles; Amber Green, of Coloma; Arielle Gantzer, of Bridgman; Tamela Davis, of Benton Harbor; Amber Jennings, of Benton Harbor; Chandra Alana, of St. Joseph; Brittany Stanage, of Benton Harbor; Cynthia Mills, of Benton Harbor; Erin Rose, of Coloma; and Rhonda Young, of Benton Harbor.