PREA in the News

Federal prosecutors to decide whether to charge 2 ex-jail guards with sex abuse

PUBLISHED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2013 AT 1:00 AM / UPDATED AT 3:46 AM, Omaha World HeraldBy Cody Winchester and Todd Cooper / World-Herald staff writersFederal prosecutors to decide whether to charge 2 ex-jail guards with sex abuse

Federal prosecutors will determine whether to charge two former guards at the Douglas County Correctional Center with sexual abuse of inmates in their custody.

The two guards — a man and a woman — are accused of acting as lookouts for each other as they had sex with female inmates, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office finished its investigation this week. County Attorney Don Kleine said Thursday that he has referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Omaha. At least one of the inmates allegedly involved is a federal prisoner.

Inmates cannot legally consent to romantic relationships with their captors, per state and federal laws.

Jan Sharp, the assistant U.S. Attorney who heads the general crimes unit, declined to comment.

“We are reviewing the matter,” he said.

The female guard is accused of having sex with three inmates, one of whom has since been deported, a source said.

Sources said the male guard had sex with a federal inmate on more than one occasion. The inmate — in jail on federal drug charges — worked on a kitchen cleanup crew. The two were caught on video entering and leaving the prison's library off the kitchen while the guards were working an overnight shift, sources said.

The incidents in that case happened in early September. Shortly after, jail records show, federal marshals moved the inmate to the Pottawattamie County Jail, where she remains.

The guards resigned Sept. 20.

The allegations emerged a few months after another inmate accused a different guard of sexual assault. That guard resigned in August after surveillance footage showed the two kissing, sources said.

No charges were pursued against that guard because the evidence didn't appear to satisfy the legal threshold for sexual contact, Chief Deputy Sheriff Tom Wheeler has said.

State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha is pushing for prosecution. In a letter sent to Kleine and U.S. Attorney Deb Gilg after the allegations came to light, Chambers suggested charges of felony sexual abuse, official misconduct, conspiracy and accessory to a felony.

“Prosecutors are duty-bound to 'watch the watchers' and call them to account for breaches of the law,” he wrote. “Is it not ironic that guards who watch over law-violators are not, themselves, deterred from violating the law?”

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