Inmate's Civil Suit Against Prison Officials Going to Trial

9-19-05 - For about 18 months, a gay burglary convict was sold as a sex slave and repeatedly raped behind bars while prison officials ignored his pleas for help, he says.

"I ask you to please intervene and save my life from this abuse," Roderick Johnson wrote to prison officials in letters released by the American Civil Liberties Union. "I don't want to be a sex toy to these ... inmates any longer. Please help me now!"

The ACLU sued on Johnson's behalf in 2002, and the civil trial was to begin Monday with jury selection in federal court in Wichita Falls. Johnson, who was released from prison in 2003, seeks unspecified damages against seven Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials.

Last year the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dropped eight of the 15 original defendants, including the department's executive director and the prison unit's senior warden. But the court ruled that the other seven officials could be sued for discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Mike Viesca has declined to comment on the trial.