GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) – A federal class action lawsuit filed by two former inmates accuses Grainger County corrections officers of oppression, sexual abuse, coercion, and intimidation for allegedly forcing female inmates to strip naked and participate in forced-sex acts.
Jailer Travis Hank Davis was terminated on April 24, 2021 for violating Code of Ethics, officer misconduct, and abusing his position, the lawsuit claims.
The civil rights class action lawsuit, filed April 12, names Grainger County Sheriff James Harville, Jail Administrator Chris Harville, and corrections officers Travis Davis and Leonard Dalton as defendants, along with Grainger County.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs claim 8 violations of their rights under the Fourth (unreasonable search), Eighth (cruel and unusual punishment), and Fourteenth (right to bodily privacy and freedom from bodily intrusion) Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and violations of Tennessee statutory and common law.
Davis is accused of “repeatedly” forcing female inmates, including the plaintiffs, to “perform various sex acts on each other while he watched and masturbated within the confines of the control room of the Grainger County Jail.” The “shows” occurred within the female inmate pod with Davis allegedly orchestrating, announcing and directing using the jail’s intercom or loud-speaker system, the lawsuit states.
“Sheriff Harville and Jail Administrator Harville failed to investigate, discipline, question or stop Officer Davis’s horrific sexual abuse and degradation of female inmates until approximately April 24, 2021, when he was eventually fired,” the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs said complaints were made to other correctional officers but to no avail, and transfer requests were “ignored” or denied, leading them to perceive that Davis was “untouchable.” The lawsuit alleged that a correctional officer told the women to “contact an attorney on their own time.”
The former inmates claim that a “residence request report” asking if they could be moved was eventually met with the reply, “How good have you been?”
The lawsuit also states that the shows “were hardly a secret in the Jail.”
The lawsuit filed in the Northeastern Division of the Eastern District of Tennessee claims that Davis brought lighters for their cigarettes a few days after they were booked into the jail. Over time, the lawsuit claims that Davis became verbally sexually aggressive toward the plaintiffs.
“For example, he [Davis] remarked that he pictured their faces instead of his wife’s when he and his wife were having sexual relations the night before, or asked them to describe their breasts and genitalia,” the lawsuit claims.
In February and early March 2021, the lawsuit claims Davis began using the control room’s intercom to make inappropriate remarks about female inmates’ bodies. The lawsuit claims Davis using his position of authority to intimidate the inmates.
Other officers became suspicious after seeing a stack of milk crates on the control room floor, the lawsuit states. Inmates claim that the view from the control room of Cell #5 was obstructed and so Davis used the milk crates to stand on.
Grainger County Sheriff’s Office detectives visited the jail in late April 2021 and spoke with the plaintiffs separately about an investigation concerning Davis. Davis was fired days later.
Plaintiffs and the “class” that includes female inmates housed in the Grainger County Jail from May 2020 until April 2022, are asking the court to award damages of $15.5 million and court costs. A jury trial is demanded.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The names of the inmates are withheld from publication at this time under a longstanding practice of not publicly identifying victims of sex crimes.