Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jail Tragedy Should Not Have Happened

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jail Tragedy Should Not Have Happened

Article excerpt

Second of four parts.

The repercussions of sexual assault can further brutalize someone who's already suffered at the hands of a rapist.

People choose different ways to rid themselves of those brutal thoughts and images that live on in their hearts and souls.

The path chosen by 25-year-old Mark Baker was lined with alcohol.

After his dual sexual assaults at the hands of a violent sex offender in Duval County's jail, Baker was devastated.

In fact, the aftermath of the sexual assaults were horrendous for Baker.

He died a little over a year later of what was termed an accidental overdose.

His parents said he had dramatically increased his alcohol consumption in the months after the assaults.

"He was wrecked," says his mother, Kathleen Woody of Silver Spring, Md. "He was never the same after that."

Baker's sad case has led to several policy changes in Duval County's jail.

That is some consolation for Woody, who says her son's life was a blessing for both his parents and Duval County as it forced needed changes in jail policy.

"Mark gave a gift to Jacksonville that was bought with his excruciating pain and suffering," she says, adding that she wished the lawsuit she filed had resulted in even more changes in how the jail deals with prisoners and sexual assault.

TIMELINE OF HORROR

The details are clear.

Baker's odyssey began when he was first noticed drunk at a Jacksonville Walgreens on Eighth Street.

As he talked to his father via his cellphone, his father urged him to go to a nearby hospital where he could be treated.

A loud, disoriented and possibly delusional Baker left the pharmacy, still talking on the cellphone, and was walking toward the nearby hospital when he was stopped by a police officer.

The officer arrested him just steps from the hospital entrance.

Once at the jail, Baker was stripped per jail policy and placed in a cell in the suicide cell block with another naked inmate, Joseph L. Pye, who was violently suicidal and had been arrested for a felony sexual assault.

Pye proceeded to sexually assault Baker both that night and the next morning.

Pye placed a mattress against the cell window to hide his crime the second time.

"It makes 'Le Miserables' look mild," Woody says.

The lawsuit filed by Woody, who is licensed as a Florida attorney, says Baker was not allowed to call his mother although he asked repeatedly after the assault.

After being questioned by authorities, he was released alone with no money onto the streets of Jacksonville in the middle of the night.

The charges for the minor crime he was accused of - a misdemeanor - were dropped.

THEN CAME THE LAWSUIT

His parents filed a lawsuit against Mayor Alvin Brown, Duval County, the city of Jacksonville, Deputy General Counsel Jon Phillips and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, its sheriff and employees in 2014. …

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