A sheriff's deputy has been charged with second-degree sexual abuse, following accusations that he sexually assaulted a female inmate who was in jail awaiting trial.
D.C. sex assault defense lawyers know that it is not unusual in jail or prison settings for sexual relationships to develop between inmates and guards. However, because of the skewed balance of power, corrections officers will almost always face at least some sanctions for this, even if consensual.
From an employment standpoint, it could be anything from a reprimand to termination. If it was a consensual relationship, it's possible but not always the case that one would face criminal charges.
While it's not clear in this case exactly what physical evidence there might have been, it appears the defendant confessed to investigators, following the accusations brought forth by the female inmate.
The woman was reportedly awaiting trial - we don't know what for - at the Upper Marlboro courthouse in Prince George County. She was reportedly in her holding cell when the deputy assaulted her.
The exact details of the encounter haven't yet been released. Yet, the deputy's employer is already seeking to distance itself from the incident, with the sheriff issuing a statement to the effect that he is saddened and outraged, calling the action a betrayal of public trust.
The incident reportedly happened in the afternoon, and was reported fairly soon after it allegedly occurred.
Although the circumstances in this case are obviously unique, given the position of the accused, the basic standards are applicable to all D.C. sexual assault cases.
Second degree sexual abuse in D.C., as defined in D.C. Statute 22-3003, can apply to anyone. This law essentially says that you engaged a person in sexual contact through means of threat or fear. The maximum penalty for this is imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $200,000.
A correctional officer, however, can face additional charges with regard to sexual abuse under D.C. Statute 22-3014, which outlines second-degree sexual abuse of a ward. This applies to any employee, staff member, consultant, volunteer, at a treatment facility, group home, hospital - or detention center - in which they are essentially serving as a custodian of that person. If they engage that person for whom they are a custodian in a sexual act, they face a maximum of five years in prison and a $50,000 fine if convicted.
In either case, the severity of the circumstances means that securing an experienced criminal defense lawyer should be a top priority for this - and all - defendants accused of a sex crime.