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State settles inmate sex-assault lawsuit


UNDATED (WSAU) The state gave $150,000 to a former prisoner and his attorney, to avoid a lawsuit that would have accused a guard of sexually assaulting the inmate.

The Associated Press obtained previously confidential records involving former Prairie du Chien prison guard James Trentin. And the A-P said Trentin’s bosses failed to stop the sex assaults at first, in spite of warning signs. A Corrections Department investigation resulted in 22 sexual assault charges against the 61-year-old Trentin, who was accused three years ago of coercing male prisoners into giving them oral sex in exchange for contraband. But the assault charges were dropped in a plea bargain, and Trentin was convicted on three counts of giving articles to inmates. A prosecutor said he eased up because of concerns a jury would not believe the inmates, since Trentin was a City Council member and a popular figure in Prairie du Chien. But he later expressed regrets after Trentin was convicted of violating a previous bond by giving cards to an inmate in an apparent effort to start a relationship.

The corrections’ investigator, Chris Kuchinski, told the A-P he rejected pressure from superiors to back off the case, and an administrator wanted him to conclude that the sex was consensual. A corrections spokesman denied that, and said it was outrageous to imply the state doesn’t treat inmates as victims in these circumstances. Trentin, meanwhile, still maintains his innocence. He now runs a coffee shop and soda fountain in Prairie du Chien.