Crime

6 women say they were sexually assaulted by a Coast paramedic. One lost her baby.

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is a social and public health problem in the U.S. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.
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Sexual violence is a social and public health problem in the U.S. The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey says nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

A Greene County woman says in a lawsuit that she suffered a miscarriage hours after a paramedic raped her in the back of an ambulance.

She is among six women claiming they were sexually assaulted in an ambulance by a longtime paramedic at ASAP EMS Corp., a Laurel-based company that provides emergency services in Alabama and Mississippi.

The paramedic is James Lavelle Walley, a Greene County native. His duties at ASAP EMS included caring for patients taken by ambulance from areas in George and Greene counties to medical facilities in South Mississippi and elsewhere.

ASAP is currently under contract to provide emergency ambulance services in Greene County.

All six women — three each from Greene and George counties — have filed individual lawsuits against Walley and ASAP EMS Corp. for gross negligence, negligence and other claims.

The suits were filed in January and February in Greene County Circuit Court, in the aftermath of Walley’s arrest in one of the cases.

The women are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and other losses.

Five of the women are not named in the suits to protect their privacy but are listed as Jane Does 1-5. A sixth victim is named in her lawsuit, but the Sun Herald does not identify alleged sex crime victims.

One of the lawsuits has since been voluntarily dismissed because the statute of limitations of three years had expired.

Out on bond

In October, Jackson County sheriff’s investigators arrested Walley on a charge of sexual battery in a case involving one of the lawsuits. He is free on a $20,000 bond.

Walley remains under investigation, with more charges expected once evidence in that case and others are presented to grand juries for possible indictments.

MUG James Walley.jpg
James Walley Jackson County Sheriff's Department

In each of the cases, the alleged victims are considered vulnerable persons because they were suffering from medical issues requiring emergency services.

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages from ASAP for the failure to provide standard of care and for the failure to properly train or supervise its ambulance drivers.

Other damages are sought for gross negligence and negligent hiring and retention because, court papers say, the ambulance company had known about Walley’s “propensity for sexual violence for a number of years, but chose to turn their heads, resulting in the injuries.”

Additional damages are sought for emotional distress for physical injuries and mental trauma.

The plaintiffs are asking for compensation to cover medical costs, attorneys fees, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and disability issues.

The allegations

The Sun Herald reviewed documentation of the alleged crimes that span from June 21, 2014, to as recent as Sept. 15, 2018.

Here’s a look at the details:

Jane Doe 1: A George County resident with a history of mental illness, and protected under state law as a vulnerable adult, was picked up at her home around Sept. 15, 2018, after a suspected suicide attempt with prescription drugs. She was in transit to Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula when she claims Walley sexually assaulted her in the back of the ASAP ambulance. The lawsuits say a female was driving but did nothing to stop the alleged attack.

Jane Doe 2: A Leakesville resident with mental health issues was suffering from a drug overdose when the ASAP ambulance picked her up at her home around June 8, 2018, to take her to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg. While in transit, she claims Walley sexually assaulted her. A male driver did not do anything to aid the victim or try to prevent the alleged assault.

Jane Doe 3: A woman over 65 from Leakesville was suffering from pneumonia when she was picked up by an ASAP ambulance at her home on April 5, 2018, for medical transport to George County Hospital in Lucedale. She claims Walley sexually assaulted her in the ambulance then, as well as later the same day, after she was picked up a second time for transport to another medical facility.

Jane Doe 4: A Greene County woman over the age of 65 was suffering from respiratory failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when she was picked up by an ASAP ambulance in March 2018. The suit alleges the sexual assault occurred after she was picked up George County Hospital and was in transit to the Mobile Infirmary. The woman has died, but her lawsuit is pending on behalf of relatives.

Jane Doe 5: A George County resident with a history of mental illness was severely injured when her neck was broken in a crash on July 21, 2014. The woman alleged Walley sexually assaulted her in the ambulance while it was headed to the Mobile Infirmary. That suit has since been voluntarily dismissed because the statute of limitations for filing the claim has already passed.

Victim 6: A Greene County woman’s family called for an ambulance after she suffered a loss of movement that left her temporarily immobilized on April 18, 2018. The woman was pregnant when she alleges Walley sexually assaulted her in ASAP ambulance while they headed to Greene County Hospital in Leakesville. She regained some mobility during the alleged assault and tried to fight off Walley, the suit says. Within 48 hours, she miscarried because of physical injuries suffered in the attack as well as the stress brought on by the alleged violence.

Autumn Bolden-Smith sang and spoke briefly of her experience as a sexual assault victim in April 2016 at a National Crime Victims' Rights Week program at First Baptist Church of Gulfport.

Investigations ongoing

After Walley’s arrest, investigations have been trying to determine if Walley will face additional charges.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Department has confirmed it is still investigating some allegations and more charges could be forthcoming.

Leakesville attorney Joe Beard filed the lawsuits on behalf of the five alleged victims identified as Jane Does 1-5. He declined to comment for this story.

A second attorney, Joshua W. Danos of the Ocean Springs law firm Bordis & Danos, did not want to comment on the lawsuit he filed on behalf of the woman who miscarried after her alleged assault.

The Sun Herald also contacted attorneys from the Gulfport law office of Wise, Carter, Child and Caraway, who are representing ASAP. They said they could not comment on pending litigation.

ASAP has denied any wrongdoing.

Since the lawsuits were filed, ASAP has filed court papers requesting a change of venue for the civil trials, saying they would be unable to get a fair trial in Greene County courts because of pre-trial publicity.

The allegations in the lawsuits represent the allegations on behalf of the victims and must be proven at jury trial unless a settlement is reached in any of the cases before a trial.

A sexual assault evidence kit contains forensic evidence gathered from a victim's body during an intrusive, hours-long examination. Testing kits can find DNA evidence used to identify rapists, boost prosecutions or exonerate the falsely accused.

Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.


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