- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office may argue that a state prison clerk suing over her rape by an inmate at a central Pennsylvania prison could have “contributed” to the attack.

The potential defense is contained in the response to a lawsuit filed by a clerk typist who was raped by Omar Best in July 2013 at the State Correctional Institution-Rockview.

The response said the state’s attorneys may attempt to argue that some third parties “and/or Plaintiff acted in a manner which in whole or in part contributed to the events which led to the damages Plaintiff has alleged in her complaint.” The response was first reported by the Centre Daily Times.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane said Wednesday that she was saddened to learn the filing implied that the victim somehow contributed to the crime. Kane’s office said in an email that they are required to present all possible defenses, since they are lawyers for the Department of Corrections.

The AG’s office said the initial filing “should not necessarily be interpreted as meaning this defense will be pursued throughout the entire case.”

Best, 36, of Philadelphia, was convicted in May of raping the clerk and has since been sentenced to life in prison as a career offender. He also had a 2012 rape conviction and a 1996 attempted rape charge that was reduced to indecent assault, among other crimes on his record.

The woman was choked unconscious during the attack, and an internal investigation determined it took 27 minutes for guards to help the victim. The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault.

The 24-year-old victim filed a federal lawsuit in April against the Department of Corrections, her immediate supervisor, a guard to whom the victim had expressed concerns about Best, and Marirosa Lamas, who was replaced as superintendent of the prison as a result of the attack.

On Sept. 5, the attorney general’s office, which represents all of the defendants, filed a 13-page response. In addition to objecting to some of the victim’s factual claims, the attorney general also raised several “affirmative defenses,” or legal arguments they may use to defend the case, including “contributory negligence.”

The victim’s lawyer, Clifford Rieders, of Williamsport, criticized the tactic on Wednesday.

“It’s total bunk. It’s throwing something out there so they can have it on the record,” Rieders said. “They have no evidence of that.”

“It has no substance, but it’s just the way some lawyers litigate,” Rieders continued, adding that it’s “insulting to women generally who face rape cases only to be told that it’s their fault.”

According to testimony at Best’s trial and her suit, the rape victim was hired to work in the prison’s central office on June 10, 2013. By mid-July she had told prison officials that inmates sometimes entered hallways and stairs that led to her office and, specifically, that she was uncomfortable when Best entered her office. Though Best wasn’t specifically assigned to work there, he would sometimes enter to empty the trash before he finally raped her on July 25, 2013.

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