$10M Settlement In Prison Sex Abuse Case

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A tentative settlement has been reached in a $10 million federal sexual-abuse lawsuit filed by nine former inmates of a state women's prison in Chesterfield County, including one who became pregnant.

The nine women at the 260-inmate prison alleged that between 2003 and 2006, male and female officers and one teacher coerced them into sexual acts or sexually harrassed them.

One of the plaintiffs was Sheron Montrey, a convicted murderer impregnated by a corrections officer in 2005. The officer, Bobby Brown Jr., subsequently was convicted of having sexual relations with an inmate, a felony. Montrey gave birth in February 2006.

In stories published in 2005, the Richmond Times-Dispatch first reported Montrey's pregnancy and allegations by several former Pocahontas inmates that they also had had sexual relations with employees.

The women said that such improper conduct was common, but when it was brought to the attention of authorities, those making the accusations often were transferred to other prisons.

Among the defendants in the suit are Tammy Estep, the former superintendent of Pocahontas, and Marilyn Hill, the former chief of security there. Both still are employees of the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A half dozen officers and an instructor, most if not all of them no longer state employees, also are named.

Hill could not be reached for comment. But her lawyer, John A. Gibney Jr., said, "although Major Hill believes she has done nothing wrong in this case, she is happy that the case is apparently over."

Gibney said the tentative settlement must be approved by all of the plaintiffs and by state officials. Shields said the process could take a couple of months.

Formerly known as the Pocahontas Correctional Unit, the prison is now called the Central Virginia Correctional Unit #13.

A spokesman for the state attorney general's office told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he could not comment.