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Erica Jenkins’ cousin sues Nebraska prison officials for putting them in the same cell

September 2, 2018

First she helped her cousins lure two men to a park where they were killed. Then she cooperated with law enforcement, testifying against the cousins.

But when it came time for Christine Bordeaux to begin serving a 20-year prison sentence for her part in the 2013 murders of three of four victims in Omaha, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services put her in the same unit — and then the same cell — as Erica Jenkins, one of the cousins she testified against.

This despite Jenkins’ violent record — she had thrice been convicted of assaulting correctional officers — and Bordeaux’s fears of retaliation from her cousin, who got a life sentence for one of the murders. Bordeaux had requested — and been assured — that she and Jenkins would not be housed together.

Within six months of Bordeaux’s incarceration at Nebraska’s only women’s prison, in York, Jenkins was charged with attacking her, sending her to the hospital with a facial fracture and broken finger. Jenkins is awaiting trial on that prison assault charge.

Now Bordeaux, who has been moved to a prison out of state, is suing Nebraska prison workers and officials, including the warden at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women, Denise Davidson.

Attempts to reach Davidson for comment late Friday were unsuccessful.

Taylor Gage, spokesman for Gov. Pete Ricketts, said the State of Nebraska doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Friday, Bordeaux lays out a claim of indifference and negligence.

Bordeaux was a participant in a grisly spate of murders by death row inmate Nikko Jenkins and faced up to 35 years in prison. She agreed to cooperate with law enforcement and was sentenced to a combined 20 years for criminal conspiracy and attempted robbery.

Her testimony helped net a lengthy sentence for Erica Jenkins and a death sentence for Erica’s brother, Nikko.

“Bordeaux worried, and reasonably so, that she would be at risk for retaliation,” the lawsuit says.

When Bordeaux entered the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in March 2016, she was put in the same general population housing unit as Jenkins, who was sentenced in 2014.

“At the very least, Defendants should have moved Jenkins into a different housing unit. They did not,” the lawsuit says.

When Jenkins asked to be moved into the same cell as Bordeaux, prison officials OK’d it. Bordeaux questioned the move but was told that cousins fight and make up, according to the lawsuit. Two or three days later, Jenkins, with help from another inmate, allegedly assaulted Bordeaux. Bordeaux yelled for help. The lawsuit alleges that guards did not immediately respond and when they did, Jenkins told them Bordeaux had tripped.

Bordeaux could have asked for protective custody — a distinction that might have kept her safe. But according the lawsuit, that move would risk painting herself as a snitch and would have lessened her eligibility for privileges, including visits with her children.

After the assault, the cousins were separated and Bordeaux eventually was transferred to another correctional facility out of state.

The lawsuit alleges that prison officials failed to protect Bordeaux’s safety and violated Bordeaux’s constitutional rights to be free from excessive punishment and “deliberate indifference,” and to due process and equal protection.

Bordeaux is asking for compensatory and punitive damages.

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