JDI IN THE NEWS - 2004

Toni Heinzl, Ex-correction Officer is Sentenced for Rape, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 3, 2004.

FORT WORTH - A former correctional officer at Federal Medical Center Carswell was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison Friday and ordered to pay $207,175 in restitution to a woman he was convicted of raping at the prison's work camp.

U.S. District Judge John McBryde sentenced Michael Miller, 35, after jurors convicted the former prison guard in February of aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a ward and abusive sexual contact.

The victim, a mother of two with five stepchildren who now lives with her husband in Dallas, said she is relieved that the judge handed down a long prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

The Star-Telegram is not identifying the woman because she is a victim of sexual abuse.

The prosecutor praised the woman's courage and determination in a rare rape case against a federal corrections officer.

Hoping that she might save other women from being raped, she kept her semen-stained pants until the day she was released. Then she told the camp administrator.

It was the woman's second courtroom victory stemming from the sexual assault at the prison work camp in March 2000. On June 2, 2003, a civil jury in federal court awarded her $4 million, finding that Miller had raped her and violated her civil rights.

Jurors in the criminal case agreed with prosecutors that Miller summoned the woman to report for urinalysis at 3:30 a.m. and then attacked her in a vacant supply room. Nobody else was around to witness the assault, prosecutors said.

"Justice was served," the 47-year-old victim said. "He broke an oath that he took; he abused his power. Now that it's over, I hope I can finally move on with my life and be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children."

The woman said she was so traumatized by the attack that she still needs counseling and medication.

"I hope this sentence will put a stop to sexual assaults on inmates, that the officers know it won't be tolerated," the woman said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Schattman said he hopes the tough sentence will send a warning to correctional officers against abusing their authority.

"The public and persons in custody should know that the Department of Justice takes it seriously when officers abuse their authority," Schattman said.

He cautioned that the criminal case against Miller should not be viewed as an indictment of Federal Medical Center Carswell or federal prisons in general.

"I thought that Bureau of Prisons employees, by and large, are a very dedicated and professional group of people," Schattman said. "This is, in my view, an exceptional circumstance."

Miller's attorney, Warren St. John, who was hired after the jury trial, said he will appeal the conviction and sentence next week.

St. John said Miller had an exemplary military and correctional career and had no criminal history until he was falsely accused by the former inmate.

"I think these are false allegations and that the evidence was insufficient," St. John said.

Lara Stemple, executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape, a Los Angeles-based human rights organization that has worked on the issue for more than two decades, said Miller's victim showed extraordinary courage.

"There is a willingness of staff members to protect each other rather than protect the inmates," Stemple said. "Inmates who complain face a wall of silence. She knew it wasn't safe for her to report the rape until she got out."

Prisoner rape

No statistics are available about the frequency of prisoner rape in state and federal prisons.

A 2002 survey of three Midwestern prisons showed that as many as one in four female inmates reported being the victim of pressured- or forced-sex incidents.

Stop Prisoner Rape, an advocacy group based in Los Angeles, lobbied for a law enacted in September that seeks to help prevent sexual assaults behind bars. Michael Miller's victim and others who were raped in prison had urged lawmakers to address the problem.

The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 calls for surveying state and federal inmates to gather statistics about the problem, developing guidelines on how to deal with prisoner rape, creating a review panel to hold annual hearings and providing grants to states to develop preventive measures.