In a case that raises questions about patient safety in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, a resident raped at the Moose Lake treatment center alleges that staff failed to shield him from his violent roommate despite warnings that he felt endangered.

Philip Goldhammer, 35, sued the state last month in federal court, alleging his civil rights were not protected.

State officials admit the 2009 assault took place but argue that employees named in the suit were not responsible, according to court documents filed earlier this month.

However, a source with direct knowledge of the incident said in an interview this week that Moose Lake staff ignored requests by Goldhammer to be transferred to another room after his roommate, William Cardwell, threatened him several times before the attack.

It took more than a year and a half after the incident before the state Department of Human Services issued a "client incompatibility'' policy designed to protect patients from such attacks, according to a review of agency documents.

On Thursday, Human Services officials said they would not answer questions about security procedures at the time of the attack or delays in developing the incompatibility policy or say how many sexual assault investigations have been conducted at the facility.

The sex offender treatment program, whose population has nearly quadrupled in the past decade, was also faulted in March by Legislative Auditor James Nobles for providing inadequate therapy to patients and insufficient training to staff.

"Nobody took this kid [Goldhammer] seriously,'' the source said, "and we're going to pay because of it." The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is expected to go to mediation in coming weeks.

The source said that, in retrospect, one of the obvious failures by staff was allowing the physically intimidating, 266-pound Cardwell to room with Goldhammer, who weighs just over 140 pounds.

After the incident, Cardwell tried to commit suicide by hanging himself with an electrical cord, according documents, but the cord broke.

Criminal histories

Cardwell, 45, was charged with rape and first-degree assault and later convicted of assault with great bodily harm. He was sentenced to more than nine years in prison; last month he was sent to the state's maximum security facility in Oak Park Heights.

Before being committed to Moose Lake in 1999, Cardwell had two first-degree criminal sex convictions, in 1986 and 1989, according to records from the Department of Corrections.

Goldhammer has a history of criminal sexual assault and obscenity convictions and was committed to the sex offender program in 2007, records show.

The source said that in the days and weeks before the assault, both men had sought room transfers. Goldhammer brought up the endangerment issue during group sessions with counselors, who took no action, the source said.

Cardwell later told authorities that he tried several times, without success, to change rooms because he harbored sexual fantasies about Goldhammer, and that the slightly built man reminded him of his victims.

Another patient later told authorities he heard Goldhammer yelling during the incident, according to documents, and looked inside the room but could do nothing to stop the assault. He soon returned and managed to get the room door opened by hitting an intercom button.

After the attack, authorities found Cardwell wrote several notes describing his sexual attraction to Goldhammer, describing fantasies he wanted to carry out and making reference to suicide.

Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745