Inmate Omar Best, accused of raping Rockview staffer, may face trial this spring

mcarroll@centredaily.comJanuary 24, 2014 

The former Rockview state prison inmate who allegedly raped a female clerk, leading to a shakeup of top prison staff and tightened jailhouse security across the state, now faces possible trial this spring.

Omar Best, 36, had a pretrial conference this week in Centre County court, and his attorney and prosecutors told a judge that they anticipate a two-day trial in the case.

Best is due back in Centre County in February for jury selection, according to courthouse officials. He is currently being housed in a state prison in Huntingdon County, where he was assigned after the brutal Rockview attack.

His lawyer, public defender Deborah Lux, previously said Best plans to take his case to trial.

Best is currently serving a sentence for a rape conviction in Philadelphia and would be eligible for release as early as 2020.

In the latest case, Best faces multiple felony counts, including rape and aggravated assault, stemming from the July 25 assault at Rockview. He is accused of cornering the prison employee in her office, choking her unconscious and raping her.

An investigation revealed Best was alone with the woman for 27 minutes before leaving the area on his own, police said. The woman was later discovered by prison staff.

Police said the employee had previously reported problems with Best and that when she blew an emergency whistle during the attack, no one came to her aid.

State lawmakers called for an investigation into the incident and for changes in security protocol. The state Department of Corrections conducted its own internal investigation, which culminated in the prison’s superintendent, Marirosa Lamas, being removed from her post.

Other changes implemented by the DOC included moving clerical staff away from inmate housing units and providing employees with devices they can use to send out emergency alerts. The state prison system also hired a consultant to review the plan and recommend additional safety measures as needed.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller previously said she is reviewing whether the state’s three-strikes law would apply to Best if he is convicted, meaning the harshest sentence possible.

He is in prison on rape and robbery charges, and has a history of convictions dating back to the 1990s, court records show.

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