Attorneys for a former Shaw Group employee are calling for prosecution by the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office of four men accused of sexually abusing him at work.
Four male co-workers at Shaw’s Sunland Fabricators pipefitting plant in Walker allegedly harassed and sodomized Andrew Sawyer, 20, of Baton Rouge, between May 13, 2011, and Feb. 5, 2012, Sawyer and his attorneys said
during a news conference Tuesday outside the city-parish governmental building in Baton Rouge.
Sawyer’s attorneys are urging District Attorney Scott Perrilloux to prosecute the four men on various counts ranging from sexual battery and aggravated battery to false imprisonment.
The four men arrested by the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and the counts with which they were booked are:
- Tommy Foster, 33, 23837 Walker South Road, Denham Springs, arrested April 13 and booked with sexual battery, simple battery and false imprisonment.
- Zachery Foster, 23, 28171 Chelsea St., Walker, arrested April 16 and booked with simple battery and sexual battery.
- Brennon Lott, 19, 16146 Ruth Drive, Walker, arrested April 13 and booked
on two counts of sexual battery and four counts of simple battery.
- Jonathan Douglas Lott, 36, 16146 Ruth Drive, Walker, arrested April 13 and booked with aggravated battery.
Sawyer’s attorneys also have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to intervene in the case.
Sawyer, who says he is gay, said the abuse started almost immediately after he began working at the Walker plant.
He said his co-workers called him names such as “Skittles” and “sweet cheeks,” bullied him, poured water down his pants, restrained him with electrical tape, put their hands on him in sexually suggestive ways and forcibly sodomized him on multiple occasions with items such as a ballpoint pen, he said.
Sawyer went to his supervisors for help, but nothing was done, he said.
A grand jury was convened to hear the case in August, attorney Ronald Haley said.
But Sawyer did not receive a subpoena until the Friday afternoon before the Monday morning jury session, Haley said.
Sawyer requested a delay because he lacked transportation and was not prepared to talk about the harassment without first speaking to a rape therapist, Haley said.
That request was ignored, he said.
“Due to insufficient cooperation from Mr. Sawyer, along with a lack of corroborating evidence to his allegations, the District Attorney’s Office chose not to accept the
case for prosecution,” Perrilloux said in a written statement Tuesday.
“Shaw takes any allegations of misconduct very seriously and absolutely will not tolerate any form of discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace,” company spokeswoman Gentry Brann said in an email Tuesday. “As with any employee complaint, we thoroughly investigated this matter and took the appropriate actions.
“Due to the confidential nature of that investigation,
we cannot provide any additional details at this time,” Brann said.
Sawyer said he tried to ignore the harassment because he believed the job provided a rare opportunity for someone who was orphaned by age 11 and had a limited educational background.
“I just wanted to provide a better life for me and my younger brothers,” he said.
“It’s beaten me down to know I have to live with this, wake up to it, go to sleep with it every day,” Sawyer said. “I never thought getting this job I would have to endure this stuff.
“I had to deal with these people every day, every moment, every break,” he said.
“Rarely in sexual harassment cases does the act rise to the point of being criminal. That has happened in Andrew’s case,” Haley said.
“It’s appalling. Every level of the system has failed,” said Matthew Patterson, of Equality Louisiana, a statewide coalition of groups dedicated to improving the quality of life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Whether it’s same-sex sexual harassment or same-sex discrimination in general, it’s something we don’t talk about. We just want it to go away,” Patterson said. “But ignoring the bully doesn’t work. We have to push the conversation forward.”