- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - A District of Columbia man exonerated after spending 20 years in prison for a 1981 rape and robbery he didn’t commit is suing the District for his treatment at a now-shuttered northern Virginia prison, where he says he was repeatedly raped and contracted HIV.

Kirk Odom, who lives with his wife in Southeast Washington, was exonerated in 2012 after DNA testing proved he was innocent. He had served two decades in prison before being paroled in 2003 in the rape of a woman in her Capitol Hill apartment in February 1981.

About a year ago, the 52-year-old settled a lawsuit against the federal government for false imprisonment for about $1.2 million, the maximum allowed. Now he’s seeking additional compensation from the District stemming from conditions at the Lorton prison in Fairfax County, which closed in 2001.

On Monday and Tuesday, Odom sat on the witness stand in D.C. Superior Court, recounting his time in prison, which he says include a number of rapes and suicide attempts, The Washington Post reported, (https://goo.gl/PMoEvf ).

Odom testified that he tried to keep his rape conviction a secret from fellow inmates, since those serving time for sexual assaults often are targeted for rape themselves. But it didn’t last long.



Odom said he was first raped in 1982 after a fellow inmate walked up to him and whispered, “I know what you did.” He was raped more than a half-dozen times during his stay at the prison, he said.

Fifteen years after the first rape, Odom took an HIV test, which showed he was negative. Months later, after another fellow inmate raped him, he tested positive for the virus.

“I was devastated,” Odom said.

Odom also testified that his cell at Lorton was overrun with rats and cockroaches, and saw other inmates get attacked and killed. He said he was afraid to fall asleep at night and take showers for fear of being attacked.

“I tried to stay alive,” he said. “Each and every day, I feared for my safety … I didn’t know what would happen next.”

Odom also spoke of depression and suicide attempts, saying he once tried to hang himself. He said he once set his mattress on fire after an appeals court turned down his case.

Attorneys with the D.C. attorney general’s office said that while they sympathize with Odom’s plight, he shouldn’t receive any compensation on top of what the federal government gave him. In regard to his HIV status, they noted that Odom admitted to having a consensual sexual relationship and getting a tattoo while in prison.

Odom now owns a landscaping and painting company with his wife, Harriet, whom he met in an HIV-support group. He said he continues to take medication for depression and for his HIV.

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Information from: The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com

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