By: Lance Benzel September 15, 2016 Updated: September 15, 2016 at 7:08 pm
Operators of a Colorado Springs halfway house agreed to an out-of-court settlement this week to avert a federal lawsuit by two female inmates who were sexually abused by a maintenance supervisor.
Terms of the deal, including the plaintiffs' financial award, weren't disclosed in court records reporting the settlement between the former inmates and owners of Community Alternatives of El Paso (CAE), 2945 E. Las Vegas St.
The women claimed that halfway house operators were negligent in their training and supervision of Joseph Garcia Chapman, 45, of Fountain, who was sentenced to 10 years-to-life on sex offender probation last year after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting both women.
CAE is owned by the New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, a private, nationwide corrections company that contracts with the state-funded El Paso County Community Corrections Board to provide post-conviction supervision and services at its halfway house near the El Paso County jail.
The deal came Thursday at a settlement conference held before federal Judge Michael J. Watanabe, court records show.
Attorney Joshua Tolini declined to discuss the terms or confirm the settlement, and Community Education Centers spokesman Charles Seigel also declined to comment - suggesting the deal likely contained a confidentiality provision.
The Gazette, which generally withholds the identities of sexual assault victims, isn't identifying the plaintiffs.
Their lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver in December, three weeks after Chapman accepted a guilty plea admitting that he subjected the women to groping, licking and other forced touching when he was supposed to be supervising them.
Plaintiff's attorneys said CAE improperly granted Chapman the power to hand out demerits for misconduct, a source of leverage over the women, who say they were fearful of being sent back to prison if they reported him.
Alternatively, by helping Chapman with maintenance duties, the attorneys said, inmates could work off demerits given for rule violations and earn "merits" that could be applied toward extended day passes to leave the facility without supervision for job searches.
Chapman and CAE employees Larry Bottoms, Charity Dorsch and "FNU" - first name unknown - Bannister were among the defendants. CEC and its chief executive officer, James Hyman, were also named as defendants.
Seigel, the Community Education Centers spokesman, previously told The Gazette that the local facility reported Chapman to the police upon learning of the allegations against him and moved swiftly to fire him. An internal review found no cause to alter procedures at the halfway house, he said.
Chapman was sentenced in November to 10 years to life on sex offender intensive supervised probation as part of a plea bargain that tossed several counts against him.
Colorado Springs police started an investigation in January 2014 after one of the women confided details of the abuse to a pastor. The pastor in turn notified CAE supervisors, who called police.
During his first interrogation, Chapman admitted both encounters, using the term "horsing around" to describe the touching, according to a 75-page police report obtained by The Gazette. Multiple women told police he had a habit of making lewd comments while supervising them, the report says.
A former sergeant in a cavalry unit at Fort Carson, Chapman told police he'd been having marital trouble and that his father had recently died.
Court records show Chapman was arrested Sept. 8 in Colorado Springs on suspicion of weapon possession by a previous offender, a felony. He is free on $1,000 bond awaiting a Sept. 22 court appearance.
Contact lance Benzel: 636-0366