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Spring trial planned for inmate accused of raping prison employee

By: WJAC Web Staff

BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- The inmate accused of brutally attacking and raping a female employee at a state prison in Centre County will stand trial in the spring.

Centre County court officials said Omar Best appeared for a pre-trial hearing Thursday morning at the courthouse in Bellefonte. The trial is scheduled for at least two days, but an exact date was not yet set.

Best is accused of assaulting and raping a woman in her office at SCI Rockview in July 2012.

Investigators said Best was alone with the woman for nearly 30 minutes while the assault happened. Co-workers found the employee unconscious following the attack.

The rape led to widespread outcry from employees and state leaders about the concerns of worker safety within the Pennsylvania prison system, which is overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, State Sen. Jake Corman and Gov. Tom Corbett promised full investigations into the attack and to review security procedures.

In December, DOC Secretary John Wetzel released a report about security breakdowns at the Centre County state prisons and addressed changes that were to be put in place for staff security.

Among the recommendations, Wetzel said recommended moving some clerical employees from working in inmate housing units, supplying employees without radios with personal duress systems and increased accountability for administrative and management personnel.

As a result of the internal investigation, the superintendent of SCI Rockview was removed from her post and reassigned within the state prison system. At the time of the attack, she was also supervisor at next-door SCI Benner.

Wetzel also said the Benner facility would be getting its own superintendent. The DOC also contracted a firm to review employee safety assessments in the system.

Best is being housed in SCI Huntingdon while awaiting trial.

 
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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times

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