Wyoming Inmate Sues Department of Corrections for Alleged Sexual Harassment
Marty Wayne Rhodes claims a corrections officer violated his Eighth Amendment rights
- Published In: Criminal Justice
- Last Updated: Dec 05, 2023
Marty Rhodes is suing the Wyoming Department of Corrections and several other parties, alleging he was sexualy harassed and is now being retaliated against for reporting it. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation)
By Ellen Fike
Special to the Wyoming Truth
This story was updated on December 5, 2023 at 1 p.m. Mountain Time.
A Wyoming inmate who claims that he was sexually harassed by a corrections officer is suing the Wyoming Department of Corrections and other parties for allegedly violating his Eighth Amendment rights.
Marty Wayne Rhodes, who is representing himself in the case, filed a 23-page complaint in U.S. District Court on Nov. 27 and named 13 individuals as defendants. In the lawsuit, Rhodes alleges that corrections officer Stephen Scarbrogh sexually harassed him in 2020, causing him “years of emotional injury.” He filed a similar lawsuit in November 2022, but it was dismissed without prejudice, which allowed him to refile.
In the first lawsuit, Rhodes claimed voyeurism by Scarbrogh, a law violation. But in the new lawsuit, he now claims he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment, which infringes on his Eighth Amendment rights.
According to suit, Rhodes was escorted out of his cell at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins and taken to the restroom for a drug test one night in January 2020. He claims he was instructed to disrobe “to prove [he] had nothing to hide.”
After he did so, Rhodes reached down to grab his clothing, but an unnamed officer allegedly told him “No,” and handed him a cup to complete the drug test. Rhodes did as instructed and then handed the cup to the officer so he could finish urinating, the suit states. Once finished, Rhodes said he turned around to get his clothes, but they were gone.
Rhodes’ suit contends Scarbrogh stood in the restroom doorway and smiled as he looked at Rhodes’ genitals and buttocks.
The unnamed officer returned to the restroom about 15 minutes later and instructed Rhodes to pour out the cup of urine, which led Rhodes to go “ballistic,” demanding his clothes back and calling Scarbrogh a “pervert.” He alleges Scarbrogh kicked his clothing back into the restroom and allowed him to get dressed. Rhodes was then escorted back to his cell, the complaint states.
A few days later, Rhodes told an unnamed corporal about the drug testing incident, according to the suit. She informed him that this violated the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and that she would have to report it.
A month later, when Rhodes inquired about the status of the report, the corporal allegedly said “her boss ignored it,” the suit states. He then reported the incident to the PREA hotline.
Rhodes’ suit contends that after he reported the incident to the hotline, deputy warden Michael Harlow informed Rhodes that he had received his message and that “somebody will come talk to [Rhodes] but it’s not going to be any good.”
Later in the week, Rhodes met with two WDOC officers to discuss the report.
“They decided to debunk it and said ‘There is no proof that it happened nor is there proof that it didn’t happened [sic],’” the complaint reads.
Rhodes then filed a grievance, arguing that a department can’t investigate a member of its own team and calling it a conflict of interest. The grievance was denied, but Rhodes continued to press the matter over the next two years.
In the lawsuit, Rhodes also claims the prison is in violation of the PREA because it does not have surveillance cameras in the hallway near the restroom where the incident allegedly took place.
Rhodes is seeking an emergency injunction order for protective custody, as he alleges some WDOC staff are trying to have him killed. He also wants at least $625,000 in punitive damages for emotional distress due to the alleged sexual harassment and retaliation.
WDOC spokeswoman Stephanie Kiger declined to comment on Tuesday, citing active litigation.
Rhodes is serving time in prison for child abuse and sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree, according to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation sex offender registry. He was convicted in 2013.