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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Woman Sues Acton Rehabilitation Center, Alleging Sexual Attack : Crime: County also is accused of failing to exercise care by trusting ex-patient to transport residents.

May 05, 1994|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A woman is suing a Los Angeles County-operated drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Acton, alleging in a lawsuit that she was sexually assaulted in a van by a man in charge of driving her to the center.

The woman accuses Butch Pentalion of driving a county-owned van en route to the Acton Rehabilitation Center off the road, then pinning her down and masturbating on top of her, according to the lawsuit filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Pentalion, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with the county, declined to return repeated calls for comment this week.

Pentalion, who himself completed treatment at the Acton center, is working as a volunteer at another county-operated drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in the Antelope Valley, according to county and federal officials.

The incident began when the woman fell asleep during an evening trip back to the center in Acton between February and April of last year, according to the lawsuit. She woke up and noticed the van had stopped in a deserted and desolate area and that Pentalion was no longer sitting in the driver's seat. Moments later he was sitting on top of her.

The lawsuit accuses the county and the center of failing to exercise reasonable care by entrusting Pentalion with the van and allowing him to transport in-patient residents to various locations.

As a result of the incident, the woman alleges she suffered injuries to her body and nervous system for which she is seeking unspecified general and punitive damages. The county twice previously rejected her claim for $1 million, the lawsuit states.

The Acton Rehabilitation Center is one of two county-operated drug and alcohol treatment centers in the Antelope Valley, said Toby Staheli, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

The center provides low-cost rehabilitation on a voluntary basis for 309 residents, both men and women, and offers counseling, group therapy and educational programs.

Pentalion was recruited to join Volunteers in Service to America or VISTA--a federal service program--after he successfully completed treatment at the Acton center, according to Joan Crawford, a program manager for the Corp. for National and Community Services, which oversees VISTA and other federally funded volunteer programs.

"Everyone has felt this is an unfortunate situation caused by someone who has left the facility," Crawford said. "I don't know what she's thinking creating a fuss like this." Crawford said Pentalion currently works as a VISTA volunteer at the county-operated Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center. He is one of seven volunteers at the Acton and Warm Springs centers under a VISTA literacy program established by Richard Rioux, the executive director of the centers.

Rioux did not return phone calls. Brad Allen, director of the Acton center, also declined to comment on the case this week.

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