Swisher county employees sue over sexual abuse

Swisher county employees sue over sexual abuse

TULIA - Swisher County, one of its former sheriffs, and the current county judge are being sued in federal court.

The civil lawsuit accuses former Swisher County Sheriff Emmett Benevidez of sexual abuse and exploitation of two women under his supervision, and accuses current County Judge Harold Keeter of retaliating against the women when they reported the abuse.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are former county jail administrator Tara Rasmussen, and current county administrator Cassie Pointer.

Benavidez served as sheriff from 2008 to 2011, before he was appointed sheriff he served as chief deputy.

According to the lawsuit, Benavidez would frequently fondle himself while staring at Rasmussen and harass her with inappropriate advances.

Documents say Rasmussen reported the abuse to fellow employees, but the behavior continued. Pointer accuses Benavidez of trying to force her to give him oral sex while on a trip to Canyon for official county business.

Documents say Pointer recorded the ordeal on her cell phone and showed it to Judge Keeter, who refused to terminate Benavidez and instead let him voluntarily resign.

The suit alleges Keeter threatened to fire and blackball both women if they spoke about Benavidez's abuse to anyone.

Both plaintiffs seek monetary damages from Keeter, Benevidez and Swisher County.

Keeter refused to comment on the case, and Benavidez could not be reached Thursday.