MerrillSick CO Merrill

Two anonymous female prisoners who were used as bait to catch prison officer Stephen Merrill sexually assaulting them filed a federal civil rights complaint on April 29, 2021, in Los Angeles, California, on behalf of four causes of action. Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4 have been referred to in the media and in lawsuits.

2014 was Merrill’s first day at the CDCR, where he currently works as a corrections officer. The bungled sting operation against him took place on October 30, 2017, yet CDCR did not terminate his job until April 24, 2018.

At Chino’s California Institute for Women (CCIW) in the late summer of 2017, he became obsessed with Doe 2 after being assigned to the graveyard shift. While opening the cell door to deliver her food at 3:00 a.m. a few times a week, he would comment on her attractiveness.

Unwelcome sexual insinuation swiftly turned Doe 2 into an unwilling possum, refusing to come forward. Merrill was not deterred by Doe 2’s reluctance to touch his penis and kept at it until she did so. A suicide watch was put in place for her when she grew depressed and took an overdose of narcotics.

Doe 2 was placed in a cell alongside Jane Doe 3 after she was released to the general population. Following her transfer to Doe 2, Doe 2 was questioned by investigators from the Investigative Services Unit (ISU) and Internal Affairs (IA) about a fresh set of claims against a guard. Doe 2 made her first statement to these detectives concerning Merrill.

A sting operation was developed by IA Captain Joseph Spinney and IA Special Agent Michael Newman to capture Merrill “in the act” of sexually harassing Doe 2. Meanwhile, Spinney visited with Doe 2 as Newman requested authorization to install audio and video surveillance equipment in Doe 3’s cell. He explained to her that in order to “catch” Merrill “in the act,” she had to be a part of the “set-up.”

Both of the Does would flirt with Merrill in their cells, wearing nothing but their underwear or nothing at all, according to Newman’s desire. Doe 2 seems to be wary about the strategy. Several ISU and IA operatives were involved in the operation, Spinney informed her.

A clear policy breach, they merely wanted to catch Merrill accessing their cell without supervision. Even if Merrill got too deep within the cage, all Doe 2 had to do was plead for aid by saying, “Can we get some pizza?” Doe 3 was not informed of the sting operation’s details.

During the night of October 30th, Merrill made multiple visits to the Does’ cell. Neither ISU nor IA agents intervened. A finger penetrated Doe 3’s skin the fourth time he went into jail. In response to Doe 2’s request, “Can we get some pizza?” There was no reaction. After that, Merrill pushed Doe 2’s face toward his penis while bending her over and penetrating her with his finger. There was a second time Doe 2 requested, “Can we have some pizza?”

The ISU and IA operatives arrived only after Merrill had digitally penetrated both ladies. Investigators covered Merrill’s hands with plastic bags before removing him from the jail.

Both ladies are still in treatment at CCIW for mental health issues.

The law states that inmates cannot legally provide consent to have sex with guards, yet Merrill accepted a no-contest plea in July 2018 for the violation of “sexual activity by a public employee with a consenting adult.” In exchange for three years of probation, he received a two-year jail term that will be served concurrently with a two-year suspension.

The Civil Case is still ongoing.