On August 14, 2023, Cumberland County (New Jersey) settled a 2022 lawsuit filed by a Millville woman who claimed that four male corrections officers coerced her into having sex with them while she was a county jail inmate between 1997 and 2014.
In her lawsuit, Katonya Patterson, who was 51 when the suit was filed, stated she frequently landed in Cumberland County Jail due to addiction issues. Her lawsuit identified officers Ryan Auberzinsky (written as “Auberowski” in the lawsuit), Carl Rainear, Shane Demby, and Michael Russell as the individuals who allegedly “forced [her] to engage in numerous non-consensual sexual acts” including “sexually graphic verbal communications, abusive touching, oral sex, and sexual intercourse” in exchange for assigning her to desirable jobs within the jail.
The acts were alleged to have taken place in camera-free zones, and she said she lived in perpetual fear of repercussions if she resisted. Even outside the jail, Patterson claimed she felt threatened, especially by Demby, who she said “came to her house or her sister’s home demanding sexual acts.”
According to the county’s response to an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, Auberzinsky, Rainear, and Russell retired in 2010, 2017, and 2022, respectively. Demby remains employed, earning an annual salary of $74,000, having served over twenty-five years.
Patterson’s claims mirror those in a 2017 lawsuit by inmate Jennifer Cantoni, which settled for $150,000 in 2020. Likewise, Patterson’s allegations echo another 2017 lawsuit by inmate Fatema Rolle . (Update: In February 2018, Rolle executed two settlement agreements, each for $50,000, both of which are in a single PDF file on-line here. One was to the County and Officer John Berry and the other was to Berry individually. Both, contain confidential clauses that require Rolle to keep the settlement terms and even the settlement agreements’ existence confidential. The settlement allowed the county to withhold half of the $50,000 pending Rolle’s testimony at Berry’s hearings on departmental charges. According to the county’s November 1, 2023 response to an Open Public Records Act request, Berry is still employed by the Cumberland County.)
The case is captioned Kaytona Patterson v. Cumberland County, Docket No. CUM-L-609-22 and Patterson’s attorneys were Patrick T. and Andrew J. D’Arcy of Egg Harbor Township. The lawsuit and settlement are contained within a single PDF file on-line here.
None of Patterson’s allegations have been proven or disproven in court. Settlement agreements typically state that payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by any of the defendants or any of the other jail officers named in the lawsuit. All that is known for sure is that Cumberland County or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Patterson $195,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants’ decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial–it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.