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Ex-officer seeks lesser sentence for role in jail abuses

A former lieutenant at the Fayette County Detention Center is trying to avoid prison time for helping cover up inmate beatings by arguing that, as a female, she had little real authority in the jail's "male dominated culture."

Kristine Lafoe could be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison on Wednesday, but Lafoe is asking for 12 to 18 months of home detention and community service.

In a court document filed in October, she said her actions were in part motivated by a "desire to be a part of the male dominated culture" at the jail and "to compensate for her lack of any real supervisory authority over the males under her command."

"In reality, Kris did not have the actual authority that her title would indicate," her attorney Patrick Nash said in an Oct. 14 motion asking for no prison time.

Lafoe's contention comes amid recent allegations in lawsuits and jail documents that men working at the jail have behaved inappropriately toward female inmates and one female officer.

In August, a male officer resigned after an internal jail investigation found that he had shown a picture of his penis to a female inmate. On Thursday, officer Charlotte Trotter filed a lawsuit alleging that a supervisor sexually harassed her and that jail officials retaliated against her for reporting it.

In a statement, Mayor Jim Newberry said Friday that he is "concerned" by the allegations of misconduct, but said "we have seen no evidence of a systemic set of problems involving jail administration."

"Since my administration took office in January 2007, a number of personnel and operating changes have been made at the jail, and many of the current claims arose prior to those changes having been made," he said. "We have worked to make significant improvements over the last two and a half years. To the extent other changes are necessary to improve jail operations, we will make them."

Newberry said he continues to have confidence in jail director Ron Bishop's "ability to manage our correctional facility."

Lafoe was one of five former jail workers indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2008 for allegedly abusing or covering up the abuse of six pre-trial detainees between January and October 2006. Lafoe was not accused of beating inmates.

Four of the defendants were fired by the Urban County Government last year and none of them still work at the jail.

The indicted officers worked in the intake area of the jail that holds pre-trial detainees — people who have been arrested but not convicted.

Lafoe pleaded guilty in May to a charge of conspiring to obstruct justice by allowing others to write false and misleading incident reports to justify unnecessary and excessive uses of force. She also faces a fine of up to $250,000.

"Kris' role in the conspiracy was to look the other way, and to fail to accurately report some occasions of excessive use of force," says the Oct. 14 motion by Lafoe's attorney.

Nash declined to comment about the motion on Friday.

Two of Lafoe's codefendants also pleaded guilty in May. Scott Tyree, a former corporal at the jail, faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000. Anthony Estep, a former sergeant, faces a maximum prison sentence of two years and a fine of up to $200,000.

Estep and Tyree have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against John McQueen, who was a sergeant, and Clarence McCoy, who was a corporal, according to court documents. McQueen and McCoy are also scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday in a separate hearing.

At an August hearing, a federal prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell that a videotape shows McQueen "holding a limp detainee and slamming him atop the counter multiple times without provocation or resistance."

Prosecutors told the judge at the August hearing that McCoy had been offered a plea deal if he would testify against McQueen, according to court documents. Both McCoy and McQueen have turned down a previous offer to plead guilty, the documents say.

The October 14 motion requesting no jail time for Lafoe says she needs to stay out of prison to care for her children, ages 4 and 2..

Lafoe is the daughter of retired police officer and Sheriff's Deputy Joe Albaugh, the motion said.

When Lafoe first went to work at the jail as a booking officer in 1990 she was "treated as if she was incapable/unqualified to work directly with inmates, " the October 14 motion says.

For a time, Lafoe worked in juvenile corrections and by 2001 had risen to the rank of lieutenant.

When Lafoe was transferred to the adult facility on Old Frankfort Pike she relied "on her male co-workers to handle most of the necessary physical contact with the inmates, and she simply supervised and handled paperwork," the motion says.

"The male officers on her shift ran the day-to-day operations with Kris wielding very little real authority," the motion says.

Lafoe had allowed herself to become "callous and jaded, and sometimes even resentful of the inmates," but those actions were "at odds with how she has previously lived her life," the motion says.

The motion also maintains that Lafoe handled reportsin only two to three percent of the 150 incidents of potential abuse that were investigated at the jail.

But in a Nov. 2 response, federal prosecutors said Lafoe and her codefendants covered up "countless acts of excessive force."

The response says she is attempting to characterize herself as a victim and to minimize her role with excuses. Lafoe had many opportunities to report the abuses to a female supervisor but did not, the response says.

"The Defendant instructed officers under her command to use inaccurate language to describe uses of force, so that incidents sounded innocuous and justifiable," says the prosecutor's response.

Lafoe was the highest ranking officer on a shift that routinely used unjustified force against the detainees she was sworn to protect, the response says.

"The Defendant had the greatest ability and authority to stop the pervasive abuse at FCDC," the response says, "but she chose not to and abused her position of trust, allowing multiple victims to be harmed."

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