OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A guard accused in a lawsuit of beating a female inmate so severely she was left paralyzed had previously been accused of trading cigarettes for sex, insubordination, harassing inmates and other actions at a Florida prison, according to a news report.
Despite the long history of accusations, the Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala never fired Keith Turner and he had been promoted to lieutenant a few years ago, The Miami Herald reported.
Cheryl Weimar said in a lawsuit that she was nearly beaten to death by four guards in August at the prison. Weimar was left with a broken neck and is now a paraplegic, according to the lawsuit.
Turner and another guard, Ryan Dionne, were identified Friday by Weimar’s attorney in court documents, as Weimar’s lawsuit was amended to include them as defendants. The Florida Department of Correction hasn’t publicly named the four guards accused in the beating.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating, and the guards have been reassigned to jobs that don’t have contact with inmates, according to the state Department of Corrections.
In court papers, the Department of Corrections denied any allegation of wrongdoing.
“The defendant denies that its employees were ‘angry, aggressive, and violent,’” the agency said in its response.
According to prison system records, an inmate in 2009 said Turner and other officers were harassing her because of her religious beliefs and that she feared for her life if released from confinement. That same year, an inmate said she was tackled by Turner for no reason.
In 2012, he was accused of handcuffing an inmate and saying, “Go ahead and complain. Give me a reason,” the records showed.
In 2014, a former Lowell inmate told authorities that several corrections officers, including Turner, would routinely exchange bootleg cigarettes for oral sex. The woman said she witnessed Turner receiving oral sex “three to four times” in a hallway, according to the prison system records.
In 2015, Turner was accused of having sex numerous times with an inmate, and two years later he was accused of groping an inmate while making inappropriate comments. Another complaint that year said he sprayed noxious chemicals on an inmate for no reason, and another said he slammed an inmate’s head against a wall, according to the records.
In 2018, an inmate said Turner body-slammed her into a chair, and another accused him of dragging her across the compound. Two other inmates said he used chemical spray on them for no reason, according to the records.
In a complaint filed this year by a staffer upset that Turner had left an inmate outside in scorching weather for more than three hours, the worker said, “Everyone is afraid of retaliation from this Lt and now is keeping their mouth shut about this particular situation.”
Most of the records don’t indicate if Turner was disciplined, the Herald reported.
Information from: The Miami Herald,