By Hurst Laviana
Former Sedgwick County detention Deputy David Kendall was bound over for trial Wednesday on charges that he raped two jail inmates last year and sexually propositioned four others.
At the close of a three-day hearing in which all six inmates testified, District Judge Joseph Bribiesca ruled that there was probable cause to believe that Kendall, 23, committed crimes ranging from aggravated sodomy to misdemeanor sexual battery.
Although the ruling means prosecutors can move forward with their case against Kendall, the hearing also produced evidence to suggest that the incident that led to the charges may have been staged by a 34-year-old former Crips gang member.
The former gang member testified Monday that Kendall entered his cell on the night of June 3, 2012, cuffed his hands behind his back, pressed what he said was a Taser against his back and raped him. After Kendall left the cell, the former gang member testified, he began kicking and screaming to let the other guards know that he had been raped. DNA evidence later showed that Kendall did have sex with the inmate that morning.
Wednesday’s testimony included statements from two inmates who said the rape victim concocted the story. One said the victim had consensual sex with Kendall that morning and then grabbed the deputy’s handcuffs and put them on.
“That guard did not rape him; I know that for a fact,” inmate Chad Benoit told a sheriff’s detective shortly after the incident. “Basically it was a fabricated story.”
“He said he set him up,” inmate Gregory Nicks testified, recalling a conversation he overheard the rape victim having. “He said he came into his room and they agreed to have consensual sex. … He proceeded to let Mr. Kendall have sex with him, and when he was finished, he reached down, he took his cuffs and cuffed himself up and started screaming rape.”
Defense lawyers argued throughout the hearing that after the first staged incident, the other five victims came forward with their own stories of sexual abuse in the hopes of receiving a share of millions of dollars in compensation that might be at stake. The inmates collectively have filed claims against Sedgwick County seeking more than $20 million.
Three inmates were called to the stand as defense witnesses on Wednesday, but two of them refused to cooperate.
“I know too many people in the jail,” said Benoit, 38, after taking the stand. “Being in this courtroom now, I’m in extreme risk.”
After Bribiesca tried to explain to him that he had a legal obligation to testify, Benoit said he had lost his memory.
“I used a lot of drugs, so I don’t remember anything,” he told Bribiesca. “I don’t know anything.”
Bribiesca then allowed defense lawyer Charlie O’Hara to introduce a statement that Benoit gave to a detective shortly after the incident. In that statement, Benoit told the detective that he had known the victim for years.
Benoit told the detective that the victim hoped to cash in on the incident through a civil lawsuit
“It don’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out,” he told the detective.
Prosecutors C.J. Rieg pointed out that Benoit told the detective at the end of the interview, “I think the whole thing was a setup deal. That’s my opinion. I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Nicks, 33, was a more cooperative witness, but he was only able to tell about a conversation he overheard as the victim was describing the rape to another inmate.
The last inmate called to the stand, Tyrone Hudson, also tried to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
“I don’t have nothing to testify on behalf of Mr. Kendall,” he told Bribiesca after taking the stand. “I plead the Fifth. I don’t want to incriminate myself.”
After meeting privately with Hudson in his office, Bribiesca ruled that Hudson did have a right to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Bribiesca also ruled that any statements that Hudson may have given to investigators were unreliable and inadmissible. He did not say why.
The state’s final witness in the hearing was detention Lt. Lasanda Linzy, who provided some details about the events of June 3, 2012.
She said jail records show Kendall went into the inmate’s cell about 3:45 a.m. on June 3 after seeing the inmate sitting on his bunk with a blanket around his neck. Thinking that the inmate was suicidal, Kendall went into the cell and was immediately attacked, Kendall said in a report he filed about the incident.
Kendall said in that report that he pushed the inmate’s hands away and managed to get a handcuff on one wrist. He said he then pushed the inmate onto his bunk and secured the second handcuff before leaving the cell and locking the door behind him. Kendall said the inmate got up and kicked the door while shouting obscenities and threatening to “nail” him.
Other deputies who responded found the inmate naked and handcuffed in his cell saying he had been raped by Kendall, Linzy said.