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Typist accuses Pa. inmate of raping her

| Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, 5:45 p.m.

BELLEFONTE — A clerk at a central Pennsylvania prison was raped and choked by an inmate whom she was left alone with for about a half-hour, even after she blew an emergency whistle seeking help, state police said in a criminal complaint.

The woman is a typist at the State Correctional Institution-Rockview and had complained that the inmate, Omar Best, 36, made her uncomfortable by asking about her marital and family status, according to the complaint filed against him Thursday. Best had been warned to stay away from her, but entered her office on the morning of the assault on the pretext that he was to empty her trash, the complaint said.

Instead, Best threw the woman to the ground and choked her until she lost consciousness. The woman told police that Best claimed to have a knife, and she said she fought with him, fearing she would be killed, until she lost consciousness. She awoke to find herself partially undressed, the complaint said.

Security staff members were supposed to respond to her whistle, and the July 25 assault prompted state corrections officials to review security procedures and the placement of civilian employees.

Best, formerly of Philadelphia, faces a preliminary hearing on Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault, rape, rape of an unconscious victim and sexual assault. Court records don't list an attorney for him.

Best, who is now housed in the state prison in Huntingdon, is serving 7½ to 15 years in prison for pleading guilty in 2011 to rape and robbery charges. He has a record of convictions dating to the 1990s for assault, robbery and weapons charges, according to court records.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is reviewing and changing where civilian clerks are stationed throughout the state's prisons as a result of the attack, corrections spokeswoman Susan Bensinger said Friday. The DOC hopes to provide more and better emergency assistance to staff.

Surveillance video shows that Best, whose DNA has been linked to the victim, was alone with her for 27 minutes, police said.

“It's shocking to me that noncontact employees, who are not guards and who have not received defensive training, would have any contact with inmates or be left alone with inmates,” state Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre, said in a letter to corrections officials. “This policy must be changed immediately.”

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