Grainger County settles suit over “sex shows” in jail

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Grainger County Courthouse. (Photo: Grainger County Clerk)

by Jamie Satterfield, Tennessee Lookout

Grainger County taxpayers will be shelling out $110,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a former corrections officer forced female inmates to put on “sex shows” that he viewed from atop milk crates in a control room as he masturbated, records show.

Attorneys for Candace McGhee, Chasity Bailey and Wendy Brown have filed notice in U.S. District Court that the three women have reached a settlement in their civil-rights lawsuit against Grainger County Sheriff James Harville and his subordinates over the actions of former corrections officer Travis Hank Davis.

U.S. District Judge Katherine Crytzer on Wednesday issued an order to close the case in lieu of the settlement announcement.

According to a settlement agreement obtained by the Tennessee Lookout via a Tennessee Open Records Act request, the county is agreeing to pay the three women a total of $110,000 and revise policies of the Grainger County Sheriff’s Office to prevent future abuses.

The lawsuit alleged Davis ordered female detainees “to strip naked for him or perform various sex acts on each other while he watched and masturbated within the confines of the control room of the Grainger County Jail” last year.

Harville fired Davis in April 2021 after two Grainger County detectives interviewed McGhee and Bailey, but no criminal charges have been filed. The two women filed suit earlier this year.

According to the litigation, McGhee was serving a 27-day jail sentence on a probation violation at the time of Davis’ actions. Bailey was a pretrial detainee, accused but not yet convicted of a probation violation. It’s not clear from the litigation whether Brown was a pretrial detainee or was serving a sentence.

‘Sex shows’ and milk crates

Davis, who worked as a truck driver before he was hired to serve as a jailer for Grainger County, was allowed to supervise female detainees. The lawsuit alleged Davis began grooming the women through acts of favoritism, including giving them lighters for their cigarettes.

“As time passed, however, he became increasingly verbally sexually-aggressive toward the (women), routinely directing vulgarities at them,” the lawsuit states. “For example, he remarked that he pictured their faces instead of his wife’s when he and his wife were having sexual relations the night before, or asked them to describe their breasts and genitalia.”

Davis, the litigation stated, eventually began to demand the women and other female inmates housed with them put on “sex shows” while he watched, climbing atop stacked milk crates in the control room to get a better view.

“The ‘sex shows’ orchestrated and directed by Officer Davis were hardly a secret, as inmates in the female pod regularly heard Officer Davis making the demands on the intercom to watch female inmates have sex and witnessed, or at least heard, the ‘sex shows’ going on from their own cells,” the lawsuit states.

McGhee and Bailey complained to supervisors in the jail and asked to be moved away from Davis’ assigned cellblock, but they refused, according to the lawsuit.

Grainger County detectives interviewed the two women as a result of their complaints, according to the lawsuit. Harville later fired Davis for “violating the (agency’s) Code of Ethics, for officer misconduct and for abusing his position,” the litigation stated.

Tennessee Lookout is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Tennessee Lookout maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Holly McCall for questions: info@tennesseelookout.com. Follow Tennessee Lookout on Facebook and Twitter.

Published on October 31, 2022.