#MeToo comes to prison
Illicit sex reports increase at women’s lockup
Most allegations are never proven, but accusations of sex between inmates and staff keep coming at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, the state’s largest women’s prison.
Sex between inmates and staff is illegal – under the law, prisoners cannot consent to sex with employees, and custodial sexual misconduct is a felony punishable by between two and five years in prison. But court records and investigative files show that employees aren’t always charged with crimes, even when allegations are substantiated. Indeed, a former sergeant who left the Department of Corrections after the department found that he’d had sexual contact with a Logan inmate is back on the state payroll.
If ever there was a solid case against an Illinois prison employee for having illegal sexual relations with a convict, it came in 2014.
Late that year, the spouse of Michael Allsup, a Logan guard, told Illinois Department of Corrections investigators that her husband hadn’t been himself lately. He’d been texting a lot and not allowing anyone to see the messages, particularly after he returned from Texas, where he had said that he was testing for a job with the Dallas Police Department. Phone records revealed hundreds of calls and texts between Allsup and Madeline Martinez, who was paroled after serving three years of a six-year sentence for home invasion. She had a previous conviction for robbery.
Corrections officials launched an investigation, but waited nearly five months before speaking with Martinez, when she came back to Illinois with Allsup from Texas, where the couple was living. She was pregnant and engaged to Allsup, who refused to answer questions without an attorney present. “I resigned, so I don’t know what the issue is,” he told an internal affairs investigator.
Martinez told investigators that she hadn’t had sex with Allsup while in prison, but she did the day after her parole on Oct. 22, 2014. Under the law, however, it is a felony for any employee of the state prison system to have sexual contact with a person in the custody of the Department of Corrections, and that includes both inmates and parolees outside prison walls.
Allsup appeared to meet the standard. While still employed as a prison guard, he informed his daughter, via text message, that Martinez was expecting:
You are having a baby? Like seriously
Yes I am
Omg u r dumb
Why you say that?
Because you are 45 and you have three kids that you up and left here to have one with someone else
When his wife spoke with corrections officials a week later, Allsup repeatedly tried contacting a lieutenant at Logan. “This lieutenant told…Allsup that he was a pile of shit for just up and moving out on his wife and not showing up for work,” the lieutenant wrote in a report documenting a conversation with Allsup the day his wife spoke with investigators. A week later, the same lieutenant reported receiving several texts and calls from Allsup after that first call, even though the lieutenant said that he’d told the correctional officer not to contact him. “I never thought my buddy would stab me in the back,” Allsup wrote in one text message. “Rat.” The next day, he sent another message: “What happened to u having my back?” he wrote the following day.
Four days later, Allsup resigned, effective Christmas Day in 2016, saying in his resignation letter that he’d moved to Texas, where he’d gotten a law enforcement job (the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which licenses cops in the Lone Star State, says that it has no record of Allsup attending a police academy or being employed as a police officer). While working as a guard and engaged in a sexual relationship with Martinez, Allsup also was employed as a part-time police officer in Chenoa and Colfax, small towns about 90 miles northwest of Springfield, according to state prison files.
The Department of Corrections forwarded internal affairs files on Allsup to the Logan County state’s attorney’s office, which filed no charges. No charges against Allsup have been filed in Cook County, where Martinez told corrections investigators that she had sex with him while on parole. Corrections department files sent to the state’s attorney’s office show no indication that corrections officials called police, despite evidence of criminal conduct by Allsup.
“I can’t get enough of you”
In the three-year span between 2013, when Logan Correctional Center was converted from a men’s lockup into a women’s prison, and 2017, three prison employees were charged with custodial sexual misconduct. Since then, five guards and other employees at Logan in less than two years have been charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly having sexual contact with inmates. In addition, a former inmate, using a pseudonym, sued Richard Macleod, a prison counselor, last summer, claiming that he had sex with her before her release from prison in July. Macleod has not been charged with a crime and remains a corrections employee.
Department of Corrections officials declined interview requests. Others on the front lines, from inmate advocates to Logan County state’s attorney Jonathan Wright, say they can only guess why the number of cases has gone up during the past two years.
“I don’t have any one answer, and I don’t know that anyone does, in terms of noting that uptick,” says Jennifer Volen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association in Chicago, a prison reform group that monitors and reports on conditions inside Illinois prisons. “It strikes me that one of the things that may be happening is the women who live in Logan may feel more comfortable coming forward.”
Wright theorizes that the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal law aimed at preventing sexual assaults behind bars, has contributed to the recent rise in reports from inmates who might once have been reticent. The law has been on the books since 2003, with standards designed to prevent and detect assaults released in 2012. In addition to mandating zero tolerance approaches to sexual abuse in prisons, the standards require that inmates know how to report sexual abuse and be given multiple avenues to make reports, including to outside entities and anonymously, if they choose. The standards also prohibit retaliation for making reports or for cooperating with investigations. Federal auditors who visited Logan in 2016 determined that the prison met standards.
Since standards were released six years ago, allegations of sexual misconduct by employees of prisons and jails nationwide have skyrocketed, increasing by nearly 200 percent between 2011 and 2015, according to a Department of Justice report issued in July. Federal data shows that eight percent of 36,578 allegations made between 2012 and 2015 were substantiated, with 10 percent of investigations pending. The most recent federal report does not differentiate between men’s and women’s prisons, but rates of sexual misconduct by staff were slightly higher in men’s facilities than lockups for women, according to a prior report published in 2013.
In reports to the federal government, Illinois prison officials disclosed 67 sexual misconduct allegations involving Logan staff between 2015 and 2017, with five cases substantiated in those three years and an equal number described as pending, according to the state Department of Corrections website. According to the most recent report, there were 189 allegations of sexual misconduct by staff last year in the state’s 31 prisons. None were substantiated.
Some former inmates say that sexual misconduct by employees at Logan has been an open secret. In a Jane Doe lawsuit filed in September, a former inmate says that Milo Ziemer, a former electrician at Logan, forced her to perform sexual acts and that the prison’s maintenance department was “rife with custodial sexual misconduct,” with employees routinely swapping contraband for sex. “These allegations were well-known to inmates and staff at Logan, yet nothing was done for months, if not years,” attorneys write in the lawsuit that also names former warden Margaret Burke, two guards and a supervisor in the prison’s internal affairs department as defendants.
Charged late last year, Ziemer is facing five counts of custodial sexual misconduct involving two inmates. The plaintiff in the Jane Doe lawsuit says that Ziemer and other employees in the maintenance department selected which inmates would be their assistants, the building had no cameras and office doors could be locked from the inside. The plaintiff says that Ziemer and another employee warned her to stay quiet after Illinois State Police shut down the maintenance department in the summer of 2017 and conducted an investigation.
“It’s see no evil, hear no evil – kind of look the other way,” says Louis Meyer, Jane Doe’s lawyer. “Rumors were circulating, and I don’t think enough was done to investigate it. … Most of the time, unless there’s smoking-gun evidence, they say ‘We can’t prove it or disprove it.’”
In another case, a sergeant at Logan wasn’t charged with a crime after corrections investigators determined that he had engaged in sexual relations with an inmate. The 2014 investigation centered on notes allegedly passed between Sgt. Anthony Stapleton and Tina Lamonica, who was serving time for involuntary manslaughter. “I have fallen head over heals (sic) for you, Tina,” read one letter that an Illinois State Police handwriting expert concluded was authored by Stapleton. “My oh my. I can’t get enough of you.”
The expert found similarities between Stapleton’s writing and handwriting in eight other love letters found in Lamonica’s cell, but the expert reported that she could not make a definitive match without seeing more samples of the sergeant’s handwriting. Stapleton’s girlfriend, a Logan guard, gave investigators a letter in Lamonica’s handwriting that she said she’d found at the sergeant’s house.
During an initial interview with investigators, Stapleton denied the letter came from his house, and he also denied writing notes to Lamonica. He insisted he’d done nothing wrong. Lamonica, however, said that she and Stapleton had been writing sexually graphic letters to each other and that she had hugged and kissed the sergeant and rubbed against him while clothed. She said that she had exposed herself to Stapleton, but denied having sex with the sergeant. A polygraph examination showed that she was deceptive when she denied engaging in oral sex with Stapleton, who refused to answer questions after being read his rights and told that the interview would be part of a criminal investigation.
Beyond getting help from the state police handwriting expert, there is no indication in files provided by the Logan County state’s attorney’s office that corrections officials called police to assist in the investigation, which was handled by the department’s internal affairs division. Stapleton did not react well to the probe, according to files.
The sergeant’s girlfriend reported that he threatened to kill an internal affairs investigator. A lieutenant assigned to internal affairs at Logan reported receiving a profanity-laced text message from Stapleton during the investigation: “(Y)ou let me shake your fucking hand the other day and then treated me like a fucking prick! I’ve known you since you were a kid! I hope your career is worth fucking with your friends.” Bad feelings played out in public, according to investigative files, when Stapleton confronted an internal affairs investigator and his wife in a Sherman restaurant. The investigator told Sherman police that bystanders restrained the sergeant; the restaurant owner said that he resolved the issue by speaking with the sergeant.
In addition to concluding that Stapleton had engaged in sexual misconduct, the department determined that the sergeant had provided false information to investigators and threatened employees assigned to internal affairs.
Corrections officials also determined that Lamonica, Stapleton’s alleged prison paramour, had violated prison rules by engaging in sexual misconduct and had also violated rules on contraband – she told internal affairs that she was in love with Stapleton and that the sergeant had brought her toothpaste and an eyelash curler that weren’t allowed. Lamonica is no longer in prison, but has violated parole terms and is listed as an absconder on the corrections department’s website.
Stapleton’s employment with the Department of Corrections ended in 2014, but his past didn’t prevent him from getting a job less than three years later with the secretary of state’s office, where he is paid $54,600 a year to work as a security guard.
“I’m surprised but not shocked,” says Megan Groves, communications director for the Uptown People’s Law Center, a Chicago nonprofit that advocates for prisoner rights. “As a general rule, people are not suffering serious consequences for this type of behavior.”
Dave Druker, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White, said that the secretary of state’s office wasn’t aware that the Department of Corrections had substantiated sexual misconduct charges against Stapleton until Illinois Times asked why he was hired last year. “We had talked with the Department of Corrections – they told us that he had resigned,” Druker said. “We had done a criminal background check and didn’t find anything.” Druker said the office now will make further inquiries into Stapleton. “Of course, we’ll look into it,” Druker said.
Whether criminal charges are filed doesn’t always matter in civil court, where Meyer in 2016 won a $1.5 million federal jury verdict for Ashley Robinson, who claimed that she was raped by Timothy Ware, a guard, while she was incarcerated in the state’s women’s lockup in Decatur. Ware wasn’t charged with raping Robinson, but he was prosecuted and found guilty of official misconduct for contacting parolees.
“It turned out he was getting cell numbers of girls about to parole and trying to hook up with them while they were on parole,” recalls Meyer, who is handling the civil case against Ziemer, the former Logan electrician who is now facing criminal charges. Ware, not the state, is liable for the award in Robinson’s civil lawsuit. He got 30 days in jail and probation for his misconduct convictions.
In Logan County, punishment for the four prison employees found guilty of sexual misconduct since 2014 has ranged from 30 months of probation to prison time. Ryan Motley, a former guard who pleaded guilty in February got, by far, the longest sentence for having sexual contact with an inmate, but his five-year term for custodial sexual misconduct wasn’t as long as the five years plus six months he received for smuggling Xanax and Klonopin into prison for Kaylia Fannin, who drew a four-year sentence for possessing 10 pills that Motley brought her.
Motley and Fannin got busted shortly before her release in 2016, when the guard was spotted passing something to her. In addition to pills, a search of Fannin’s cell turned up love letters authored by both her and Motley, books in which Fannin had written “I love Ryan” and a calendar memorializing dates that the guard had brought drugs to her and how many pills he’d delivered.
Drugs weren’t the only gifts that Fannin expected from Motley. She asked him for lip balm, soda, pens and, according to state police files, a bottle of Polo Black cologne so she could settle a debt with another inmate. Amazon offers 1.3-ounce bottles of Polo Black for $55, significantly more than a tube of A Scent Of Gratitude, the only authorized fragrance at Logan, sells for at the prison commissary. Rules on colognes and perfumes are so strict in Illinois prisons that letters scented with fragrances aren’t allowed. It’s not clear how an inmate could wear pricey cologne without guards noticing.
Fannin told investigators that sexual contact between her and Motley was limited to kissing and groping, and that it happened just once, when the guard got into bed with her while a cellmate was present. “You’re the police, you can do anything you want,” Fannin told the guard, according to the cellmate.
The relationship lasted less than four months, according to investigative files. By the time the two were caught, both inmates and guards suspected that something was up. Inmates told state police that Fannin referred to Motley as her boyfriend. One inmate said that she would profess her feelings for him by yelling “Hi Ryan, I miss you baby” from her cell – she once yelled that he was “a stupid bitch,” recalled another inmate, who concluded Motley and Fannin were having a “lovers’ quarrel,” according to police reports.
Twice, Motley filed incident reports, telling his superiors that Fannin was paying him undue amounts of attention. He told a different story in a love letter that investigators found in Fannin’s cell: “You literally consume my mind,” the guard wrote after going into detail what he would like to do with Fannin after she was released.
He got his chance. After being interviewed by state police, Fannin was paroled as scheduled, 10 days after drugs and love letters were found in her cell. Motley’s estranged wife told police that he abandoned his family the day that Fannin was released. On her Facebook page, Fannin posted photos of her and Motley embracing and kissing, including one in which the former inmate is wearing only underwear. Motley’s spouse told police that her husband had been telling her that he didn’t want to go to jail, that he feared losing his job and that he didn’t want her to speak with police.
The illicit affair didn’t last. Three months after Fannin was released, Motley was jailed after being charged with custodial sexual misconduct and bringing drugs into Logan. Fannin was charged with possession drugs in prison on the same day. She’s due for parole in July. Motley is scheduled for release next October.
Contact Bruce Rushton at email@example.com.