Lawsuit alleges sexual abuse, retaliation at Catawba Co. Sheriff's Office

By Nick Ochsner, WBTV - NEWTON, N.C. (WBTV) - A former female guard at the Catawba County Detention Center filed a lawsuit against Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid, other top commanders in his office and a former lieutenant at the detention center alleging she was sexually harassed and, later, sexually assaulted over the span of more than a year.

WBTV is withholding the name of the female guard because of the nature of her claims.

The lawsuit names Reid, Major CK Day, Captain Bob Riley and Steven Opper, a former lieutenant at the detention center, as defendants.

In the suit, the former female guard claims Opper sexually harassed her at work beginning in January 2013. According to the lawsuit, the harassment began with reading a sexually explicit book aloud.

"Each and every night [Plaintiff] worked in the Control Room in January, Defendant Opper would read aloud from Fifty Shades of Grey, which made [Plaintiff] very uneasy and anxious," the complaint reads. "One night in January of 2013, [Plaintiff] was working with Defendant Opper in the Special Management Control Room, when Defendant Opper exposed himself to [Plaintiff], and demanded [Plaintiff] touch his penis. As Defendant Opper was [Plaintiff's] supervisor, [Plaintiff] was afraid not to comply with his requests because she feared her job would be in jeopardy."

The complaint says that the harassment continued and, eventually, resulted in forced intercourse in various parts of the jail and elsewhere.

One time, the lawsuit says, Opper ordered the female guard to accompany him on a prisoner transport trip to Alexander County. On the way back, the complaint claims Opper pulled the van the two were riding in onto a dirt road and said "he need 'some relieving'" according to the complaint, which says Opper then asked the female guard to masturbate him.


The lawsuit recounts at least three instances in which Opper forced the female guard to have sex with him.

The lawsuit says Opper threatened to retaliate against the female guard for refusing his advances.

"You satisfy me and stay quiet or I'll see to it that you lose your job," the female guard's attorney, Randy James, said in an interview with WBTV on Monday night.

Ultimately, the female guard did report her harassment and was later fired.

James said the facts in this current case are similar to those of another former client of his, who settled with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office out of court after filing a lawsuit claiming she was fired from her job as a sheriff's deputy for reporting sexual harassment.

"There appears to be a pattern of mistreatment of females in the department," James said.

Emails sent to Reid, Day and Riley on Monday night were not returned by the time this story was published. Efforts to locate contact information for Opper were unsuccessful.

James, the attorney for the female guard, said his client was hesitant to file at lawsuit at first but decided to speak out in hopes of making a change at the sheriff's office.

"She realized that the wrong will continue unless she's willing to stand up and fight," James said.

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