September 9, 2007
The mothers of two pre-teen boys who were raped while in a detention center are each seeking $100 million, accusing officials of neglecting to provide a safe environment.
The lawsuits claim damages for physical injuries, violations of the boys' civil rights, and pain and suffering. Named in the suit are the city and the director of Newport News Juvenile Services.
The two sexual assaults, which occurred in 2003 and 2004 at the city's old Juvenile Detention Center, prompted an internal review that found that the city employees who supervised the children followed state rules in placing the juveniles together.
"We've already denied that the city has any financial or legal liability," said Chief Deputy City Attorney Allen L. Jackson. "And we intend to defend the case accordingly."
One mother states that the 9-year-old boy was attacked and raped by a 15-year-old cellmate in September 2003. After the attack, the boy was taken to a hospital and treated. He continues to suffer severe psychological damage, the suit said.
The mother of the 12-year-old said her son was attacked and raped in February 2004 by a 16-year-old cellmate.
The women contend that the old detention center, in a larger facility since 2005, was crowded and poorly supervised.
"Children who awaited trial were put in cells with older and dangerous predators where arguments, fights and attacks occurred," the lawsuits state.
Both lawsuits name Larry Robinson, the director of the center, as a defendant. Robinson did not comment on the suits Friday, the Daily Press reported Saturday.
After the attacks, the city tightened its guidelines for the center and now prohibits placing children up to age 12 in cells with older juveniles. The former 40,000-square-foot, 40-bed center was closed in January 2005 when the city began using the new 71,000-square-foot, 110-bed facility.
Children ages 8 to 17 stay in the new center 22 to 31 days before trial and 30 to 90 days after trial.