Search warrant shows suspect in Rockview attack has sexually violent past

mcarroll@centredaily.comAugust 2, 2013 

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    The suspect: Omar Best, 35

    Charged with: sexually and physically assaulting a female Rockview prison staff member

    Serving time for: rape by forcible compulsion and robbery

    Prior arrests: indecent assault and simple assault, aggravated assault, robbery and gun violations

The inmate who police are investigating in connection with the sexual assault of a female staff member at the Rockview state prison has a history of sexual violence, according to court dockets.

State police at Rockview, who are conducting a criminal investigation into the July 25 assault at the prison, have filed a search warrant seeking medical records for inmate Omar Best, 35.

According to the search warrant, the 24-year-old woman identified the man as her attacker.

He has not been charged in the assault. Police have said the investigation is ongoing.

Police have said the woman, a unit clerk assigned to a housing area, appeared to have been sexually assaulted during the attack.

The search warrant filed this week by police reveals new details about the alleged assault.

Police said the inmate was working, collecting garbage cans, when he approached the woman from behind. He allegedly choked her unconscious.

It is not clear how the inmate had access to the employee.

“There was apparently an error in security, and the inmate was granted access to the victim’s workplace,” police wrote in the papers.

The female employee apparently had made complaints about the inmate in the past.

“The inmate has made the victim feel uncomfortable in the past and was to be kept separated from the victim,” police wrote.

Best, previously from Philadelphia, has an extensive criminal history, according to court documents.

In a 2011 case in Philadelphia, he pleaded guilty to charges of rape by forcible compulsion and robbery and was sentenced to serve seven and half years to 15 years in state prison. Numerous other counts, including aggravated assault and sexual assault, were not pursued as part of the plea, court documents show.

In a 1996 case, he pleaded guilty to indecent assault and simple assault, while other counts, including attempted rape, were dropped.

He has pleaded guilty in additional cases to charges such as aggravated assault, robbery and gun violations, according to court papers.

Department of Corrections officials are conducting their own internal investigation of the incident.

When reached for comment Friday, DOC spokeswoman Susan McNaughton said it would be inappropriate to comment because that investigation is ongoing.

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, has called on Gov. Tom Corbett to open a state investigation following a series of assaults at the prison, culminating in the female staff member’s July 25 assault.

The woman was taken to Mount Nittany Medical Center after the assault and was released later the same day, prison officials have said.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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