Former Benton County jail inmate claims he was sexually assaulted, raped

Tyler Richardson, Tri-City HeraldMay 7, 2014 

A former inmate at the Benton County jail claims he was sexually assaulted and raped by his cellmate, Robert B. McCorkindale, who is awaiting trial for murder.

A lawsuit was recently filed on behalf of the inmate accusing the sheriff's office of failing to protect him.

McCorkindale vehemently denied the accusations when questioned by investigators. Sheriff's officials told the Herald they found no evidence any sexual assault took place.

The Herald is withholding the name of the inmate because it is the newspaper's policy to not name victims of alleged sexual assaults.

The inmate claims McCorkindale sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions and threatened to kill his family if he told authorities, according to the lawsuit. The attacks stopped only after he pushed a panic button in the cell one morning when McCorkindale was done sexually assaulting him, he said.

McCorkindale is charged with first-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Preston Yahne on June 14, running him over twice and setting fire to his car with the body in the trunk.

"During the very late evening or early morning hours, Robert McCorkindale climbed onto (the inmate's) bunk bed and sexually assaulted (him)," the lawsuit said. "The sexual acts were non-consensual and were forced upon (the inmate) by Robert McCorkindale."

The inmate was examined at a hospital, where staff found no signs of sexual assault, Sheriff Steve Keane said.

McCorkindale offered to take a polygraph test to show he was telling the truth, though officials did not give him one, Keane said.

The case was sent to the Benton County Prosecutor's Office once the investigation by detectives was complete, Keane said. Prosecutors reviewed the case and chose not to file charges.

The sheriff's office followed proper protocol once the assaults were reported to jail staff, Keane said.

"There is nothing we found to indicate this happened," Keane told the Herald.

The lawsuit claims the sheriff's office was negligent, inflicted cruel and unusual punishment and violated the inmate's civil rights.

The inmate faced substantial risk when he was put in a maximum security cell with McCorkindale, who is known as a dangerous and violent person, the lawsuit said. McCorkindale is known to be a "leader" within the jail and someone who isn't afraid to fight other inmates.

The inmate was booked into jail because he had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to pay court fines, officials said.

"No reasonable person in the position of the (sheriff's office) would have believed that Robert McCorkindale did not pose a substantial risk to the safety of other inmates and to any person placed in the same cell with him," the lawsuit said.

Keane said many parts of the lawsuit are not true and he is confident there is no evidence to support the inmate's claims.

The reason the inmate was placed in a cell with McCorkindale is because the men scored the same on a classification tool used to determine where inmates are housed, Keane said.

The inmate has an extensive criminal history and has been convicted of a serious felony within the last 10 years, Keane said. He has been booked into the Benton County jail five times since 2009.

The felony conviction and long rap sheet means the inmate was rated a high-level offender by the classification tool, Keane said. The tool is used at jails throughout the state.

"We don't have the ability to separate everyone," Keane said. "The (tool) looks at the last 10 years of someone's highest charge. (The inmate) had one conviction of a Class A felony in the last 10 years. So it automatically puts him in maximum custody."

Keane also disputed that McCorkindale was a leader in the jail or was aggressive toward his previous cellmates, he said. No previous cellmates have ever accused McCorkindale of sexual assault.

McCorkindale hasn't had any major violations while at the jail, Keane said. He was disciplined in November for having a tattoo kit.

McCorkindale was arrested shortly after Yahne's body was found in Sunnyside. He is scheduled to go to trial later this month.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556;; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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