ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s been more than three years since jail county corrections officer Torry Chambers was accused of raping three female inmates.
On Tuesday, he was indicted on six charges of rape of an inmate and two charges of second-degree rape for allegedly using his authority as a corrections officer to coerce inmates into sex or helping another inmate rape fellow inmates.
The county has already paid three of the inmates a nearly $1 million settlement. A fourth female inmate also alleged in September that Chambers raped her.
Chambers has remained on paid administrative leave from the Metropolitan Detention Center since then, according to MDC spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell.
And the indictment filed Tuesday by the District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque does not necessarily change that.
When the jail earlier tried to put Chambers on unpaid leave, it was forced to change him to paid leave after his union filed a grievance.
It’s unclear whether an indictment will allow the jail to fire him.
In addition to the charges of first-degree rape, Chambers, who is either 38 or 39, is accused of allowing former Camino Nuevo women’s prison guard and MDC inmate Anthony Townes, whom Chambers had befriended, to rape at least one of the women, according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.
Townes was being housed at MDC in connection with a case in which he was accused of raping four female inmates while he was a guard at Camino Nuevo in 2007.
Townes was convicted of that charge in 2009 and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
A District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on what was behind the delay in Chambers’ indictment.
The county paid $925,000 in a settlement reached in July 2012 to three of the inmates whom Chambers allegedly raped.
Inmates came forward in December 2010 alleging that Chambers raped inmates and had helped Townes rape inmates as well. The alleged rapes occurred between September 2008 and October 2010.
Chambers was placed on unpaid leave because jail officials expected that he could be fired if he was convicted of criminal allegations. Jail officials conducted an internal investigation at the time of Chambers’ arrest but found no evidence that he violated a jail policy.
Union officials filed a grievance, citing a clause in their contract that doesn’t allow for unpaid leave. The county agreed to settle the grievance by allowing Chambers to return to work in an all-male cell in 2012. That was the case until September, when a fourth inmate came forward claiming she also had been raped by Chambers.
At that time, a jail spokeswoman said, Chambers was placed on paid leave. He hasn’t worked at the jail since then, she said.
Chambers can’t be fired unless convicted or unless jail officials find evidence of Chambers having violated a jail policy, Powdrell said
Powdrell said MDC chief Ramon Rustin will meet with legal staff this week to see if Chambers can be fired based on Tuesday’s indictment. The indictment “adds a new layer” to an already complicated situation, she said.
“The indictment may or may not change things,” Powdrell said of Chambers’ employment status.
Chambers’ arraignment date in District Court has not been set.