MISSOULA — An inmate serving a life sentence in Montana State Prison and who filed sexual harassment complaints by a corrections officer to the Montana Supreme Court has died, court documents said.
Attorneys requested Laurence Alan Stewart II’s case be dismissed and Supreme Court Justices filed an order to do so on Wednesday if an estate representative did not appear on his behalf.
Stewart died on April 30 from an alleged hanging and the prison notified his family, prison spokeswoman Amy Barton told the Missoulian on Thursday. The prison no longer issues press releases when an inmate dies as part of a new policy.
Stewart, 33, who was from Virginia, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2013 after he was convicted of trying to kill seven Montana law enforcement officers a year earlier by throwing pipe bombs at them during a 40-mile (64-kilometer) police pursuit, officials said.
The Montana Human Rights Commission found in November that the state Department of Corrections and the state prison owed Stewart $3,000 for discriminating against him on the basis of sex in 2017. The concession allowed Stewart to forego additional allegations, including claims he was retaliated against for reporting the sexual harassment.
The report said a corrections officer sexually harassed Stewart, which included an “over-the-clothing pat search” while making sexual comments and that Stewart and at least 14 others filed informal grievances against the officer. Those complaints were allegedly lost or misplaced, so Stewart filed a formal complaint which resulted in the officer’s suspicion in 2018.
Stewart had requested $30,000 for suffering sexual harassment and for the prison’s failure to quickly investigate his claim, but the Human Rights Commission ultimately decided he was entitled to $3,000.
The Powell County attorney’s office is investigating Stewart’s death and is expected to determine whether to conduct a coroner’s inquest, which decides if a person died as the unjustified fault of law enforcement, Barton said.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.