A lawsuit filed by a former inmate who said she was sexually assaulted at Kennebec County jail by a nurse has been settled.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Brandee A. Lewis, 23, in 2016 stated while Lewis was being held at the Kennebec County Correctional Facility awaiting trial she was “brutally sexually assaulted and physically assaulted by a nurse and multiple staff members.”

In a December 2015 incident, the lawsuit stated, Lewis refused to take her medication that was to be dispensed by a nurse. The nurse, working for a firm providing health care at the jail, gave her a series of four injections from syringes — three containing saline solution and the fourth containing a “highly sedative property” — after Lewis refused to take her medications, while she was restrained by straps in a chair and pleading for someone to help her. The lawsuit states Vigue asked, after each injection, if Lewis was going to take her medication, with Lewis refusing each time.

When Lewis refused to take her medication a fourth time, the nurse, with assistance from corrections officers, took her to the shower room where the nurse forcibly gave Lewis the suppository medication, the lawsuit states. The incident was captured on video by the jail’s security camera system. The lawsuit states Lewis was sexually assaulted when the nurse inserted the suppository.

Lewis has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiant disorder and a personality disorder which, according to the lawsuit, causes her to behave in a child-like manner.

Attorney Jackie T. DiGiacomo confirmed this week the lawsuit she filed on behalf of Lewis — against the county, the jail, its health care providers, the sheriff at the time, jail staff, county commissioners and others — had been settled.

She said Lewis is not doing well and is in need of serious psychological treatment, which is being sought for her out of state because, DiGiacomo said, there is nothing available to help her in Maine.

DiGiacomo said a non-disclosure agreement was part of the settlement, so she could not discuss the case, other than to confirm that it had been settled and the settlement resolved the case. She said she could not say whether the settlement involved a financial payment.

“The case has been resolved. Other than that, I can’t discuss it any further,” DiGiacomo said.

Bob Devlin, county administrator, also confirmed the case has been settled but referred questions about the settlement to Peter Marchesi, the county’s attorney who handled the case. Marchesi could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday.

The nurse involved in the incident, Kimberly Arlene Vigue, 39, of Jefferson, was charged with two counts of simple assault for the Dec. 21, 2015, incident. She was employed by Correctional Health Partners, a firm providing health care at the jail, and was acquitted of the charges she assaulted Lewis, following a trial in November 2017.

A joint stipulation of dismissal was submitted in federal court in January following the settlement, according to court records.

Lewis’ lawsuit sought damages, including punitive damages and reimbursement for her costs and attorney fees, and sought a jury trial. And it states no jail personnel were reprimanded or disciplined for the incident.

The lawsuit also made other allegations, including: Corrections officers and mental health workers failed to report the sexual assault; officers used Tasers and pepper spray on her inconsistent with jail policies and procedures; violation of the civil rights of Lewis by subjecting her to cruel and unusual punishment; negligent supervision by jail, county and mental health officials; and that a corrections officer trying to retrieve a piece of chalk from Lewis, after she refused orders to turn it over, violently slammed her against the wall and threw her to the ground.

The county, in a response to the allegations filed with the court, generally denied most of the allegations, though it admitted to the allegation that Vigue inserted a suppository medication into Lewis.

Lewis has an extensive criminal history including a charge of arson in connection to a 2015 fire in a trash container in Augusta and another 2015 incident in which she was accused of brandishing a knife at Augusta firefighters at the Bangor Street fire station and was charged with criminal threatening and violating conditions of release.

DiGiacomo said Maine has no adequate system for dealing with people with mental illness who end up in the criminal justice system. She said Lewis, who does not have a guardian, has been in and out of treatment since she was a child and is a victim of the vicious cycle caused by the lack of adequate psychological care in Maine.

 

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]
Twitter: @kedwardskj


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