|Belvin Lee Sherrill|
By Scott Harper
A pool of potential jurors were at the Georgetown County Courthouse Monday for a lawsuit filed against Sheriff Lane Cribb by two women who were sexually assaulted by a guard at the County Detention Center while they were incarcerated in 2009.
But, before the jury pool was narrowed to the ones who would hear the case, a settlement was reached.
One of the women was awarded $100,000 in the agreement while the other will receive $50,000.
There was a third woman who was 19-years-old at the time and was in the cell. She was also assaulted by the guard, Belvin Lee Sherrill. She filed a separate lawsuit in Federal Court and was awarded $200,000. The women are not being named by the Georgetown Times because they are victims of sexual assault.
Sherrill was arrested and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He is now out of prison and is living in North Carolina.
Sherrill did not show up for what was scheduled to be a trial this week, said defense attorney Robin Jackson.
After the settlement was reached, Cribb said he was glad for the women and for his office that the matter can be put to rest.
“This was a horrible thing that happened to these women,” Cribb said after the settlement was announced.
According to court documents, while Sherrill was in full uniform he entered the cell, exposed himself and ordered the women to “perform fellatio on him.” The suit says Sherrill later returned to the cell and ordered one of the women to perform the act a second time.
While the acts were taking place, the suit states, the three women in the cell were “repeatedly pushing the panic button” but it “apparently was not working.” The women say at no time did any other employee “intervene or take any actions to protect” the women from harm.
The following day, Sherrill slid a letter under the cell door apologizing for the incident, the suit states.
Bell said Monday during the investigation letters were found that Sherrill had written to other female inmates.
Cribb said he takes the safety and protection of the inmates very seriously.
“That is why we have such a vigorous application process in place. Applicants for detention officers at that time were required to have a criminal background check, a financial check, a polygraph and a psychological exam. In addition they were interviewed by several members of command staff,” Cribb said. “Sherrill gave no indications of any problems during the application process, or during his employment, until he committed this act. As soon as it was discovered, Sherrill was terminated, prosecuted and is now a registered sex offender. I did not put up with such acts from my staff then, and I will not put up with it now.”
As for the buzzer that did not work in the women’s cell, Jackson said it was a computer problem that was fixed and continues to work.
Bell, when putting the settlement information on the court record, said there was no truth to statements made by Sherrill in his answer to the lawsuit. As reported previously. Sherrill claimed one of the women “did flash her breasts” at him as he was walking by the cell.
He also claims both women tried to coerce him into bringing them cigarettes and when he refused to do so they made the allegations against him.
“The Sheriff had nothing to do with (Sherrill’s) answer,” Jackson added. “The sheriff was upset when he heard someone took advantage of inmates.”
Circuit Court Judge Edward Cottingham agreed, calling Sherrill’s claims “ridiculous.”