Crime

Second woman files suit saying ex-Fayette jail officer exposed himself

A second woman is suing the city and a former corrections officer, saying the officer exposed himself to her while she was an inmate at the Fayette County Detention Center.

Elisha Burgess is seeking at least $750,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court, says that Burgess was stalked by former corrections officer Kevin Lawson and that his actions were done "in concert with unnamed detention center employees whose identities are currently unknown."

Burgess is one of two women who have accused Lawson of exposing himself in at least two separate incidents in December 2010.

Lawson was criminally charged and fired for misconduct in January, shortly after the incidents were reported. He has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor sexual assault and indecent exposure.

Burgess's lawsuit was filed Dec. 7, a week after Shi Sibley, another former inmate, filed a similar lawsuit. Sibley's lawsuit named the jail as a defendant in addition to the city and Lawson.

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, said city officials cannot comment on pending litigation.

Burgess and Sibley were cleaning restrooms when the conduct allegedly occurred. They both worked as trustees — inmates who are trusted to perform tasks such as cleaning and maintenance. Burgess was in jail after being charged with possession of a forged instrument, and Sibley was serving time for harassment with physical contact.

Court records in the criminal case against Lawson said he was seen on surveillance video entering a restroom behind a female inmate and staying for about five minutes. Lawson admitted exposing himself to one inmate but denied the allegation from the other inmate, according to court records.

According to Burgess's lawsuit, Lawson told Burgess to "come over here to the bathroom, I want to show you something."

Lawson then entered a restroom. The lawsuit said Burgess was ordered to clean the restroom, but she stayed outside until Lawson came back out. She entered and then Lawson followed her inside, the lawsuit said.

He allegedly exposed himself, solicited sex from Burgess, which she refused, and grabbed her to prevent her from leaving the restroom, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit said that Lawson was allowed to come and go at will to units that housed female prisoners and that "his presence was readily covered up by complicit officers and employees of LFUCG.

"It's certainly a pattern of abuse by Mr. Lawson," said Roger Michael, Burgess's attorney.

Michael said the civil case might have to wait to be heard by a judge until Lawson, who is in the Army National Guard, returns from overseas. He was deployed in August. His trial on the criminal charges was postponed as a result.

Derek Gordon, Lawson's attorney in the criminal case, said he had not talked to Lawson since his deployment. But he said he probably would represent Lawson in the civil cases as well.

"We're going to defend the new (lawsuit) just like the other one," he said. "I don't know what we're going to do about it yet. I guess it will depend on the outcome of the criminal case."

A pretrial conference is scheduled in the criminal case Dec. 21. A trial date had not been scheduled.

Michael said Burgess was traumatized by Lawson's conduct, especially because he was employed by the city in a position of authority. He said he hoped the civil case could be resolved sooner rather than later.

"On Mr. Lawson's criminal charges, he got a pass," Michael said. "We're sure hoping not to give the city of Lexington an additional pass."

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