Former prison security head faces lawsuit in inmate case

Fred Way III

WILMINGTON — A former prison security superintendent arrested three times as he rose through the Department of Correction ranks is facing a lawsuit connected to sexual relations with an inmate that later brought his conviction, according to an 18-page action.

The lawsuit claims that defendants Warden Wendi Caple and 12 other DOC officials “knew or should have known the … conduct of Major Way which should have disqualified him from such a high ranking position at Baylor or led to increased supervision.”

Then Maj. Fred Way III was arrested after investigation into a June 19, 2015 report that a 27-year-old female inmate at Delores J. Baylor Women’s Correctional Institution alleged having sexual relations with him.

Way pled guilty to four counts of official misconduct on Jan. 11, 2016 and was sentenced on March 24, 2016. Two charges of sexual relations in a detention facility were dropped.

The initial sentence of 25 weekends in prison was amended to seven days incarceration, followed by three months home confinement on April 2, 2016.

Attorney Raeann Warner filed the lawsuit in Superior Court on behalf of Chakirra Wonnum on Jan. 12, 2017.

“She has suffered a long history or sexual and physical abuse, was incarcerated, and thus was an especially vulnerable victim,” the suit claimed.

On Friday, DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravell said, “We won’t comment on pending litigation.”

Way was promoted and assigned to Baylor in June 2014, and 10 defendants listed as “John Does” were responsible, according to the action.

The lawsuit claimed a jury determined in 2003 that Way had subjected an inmate and former smoker “to cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting him to secondhand smoke who frequently smoked in his cell.

“The same inmate claimed Way retaliated against the inmate after he sued by cursing at him, putting him in solitary confinement during recreation periods, reading his personal mail and court case notes over the prison intercom and refusing to let him call his attorney.”

The inmate also alleged being harmed physically by pushes and kicks by Way, along with receiving multiple threats.

A jury awarded punitive damages against Way during a federal trial favoring the inmate in 2003, papers said.

The lawsuit then detailed arrests before Way was promoted to Major and assigned to Baylor, including:

• In Sept. 2001, after promotion to corporal and then sergeant within four months, Way was charged with drunken driving. He was convicted in January 2002 and placed on probation for two years. A judge discharged him “as unimproved,” documents said.

• In Aug. 2002, on probation for drunken driving, Way was charged with disorderly conduct, papers said.

“Way was charged with driving without a valid license,” the lawsuit claimed.

“He pleaded not guilty but didn’t appear for his trial in February 2004, leading a judge to issue a capias for his arrest.”

The action referenced a 2013 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey finding that 12 Baylor inmates told of having sex with a prison official.

According to papers, Ms. Wonnum was allowed to be alone with Way in his office numerous times, a violation of DOC policy. Prison officials knew of the violations prior to the sexual assaults, the suit claimed.

Behind a closed office door on June 12, 2015 Way and the Ms. Wonnum allegedly engaged in oral sex, papers said. Another report of sexual intercourse was alleged in the office.

“The doors were closed, … windows blocked by a covering and they were beyond the view of security cameras, both violations of Baylor policy,” according to the lawsuit.

Ms. Wonnum “has suffered and continues to suffer pain and suffering, including, but not limited to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, depression, embarrassment and emotional distress and other psychological injuries,” the suit claimed.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Way and the other plaintiffs and seeks attorneys’ fees, costs and pre-and post-judgment interest.

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