Florida Former Corrections Guard Charged with Sexual Battery of Female Inmate

May 30, 2022 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

In recent news, a former Liberty County Corrections Officer has been arrested for the sexual battery of a female inmate. Unfortunately, stories like this are not unique. A couple of months ago, Jimmy Highsmith, a former federal correctional officer, was sentenced to prison for four years for leading female inmates to his office and instructing them to perform sex acts. U.S. Attorney Coody, who prosecuted the case, stated:

“The sexual abuse of inmates by federal correction officers is intolerable. Those sentenced to prison are to atone for their crimes and gain skills that will enable them to return as productive members of society. They should not be preyed upon by officers who violate their oath of office.”

The following blog will report the recent sexual assault of an inmate and explain the charges that the former corrections officer faces.

What was the Incident?

In February, allegations were raised that a corrections officer, Shelton Turner, raped a female inmate. The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) upon learning about the allegations. The investigation revealed that Turner instructed the victim to go to an area in the facility out of sight of people and cameras. Once the victim was cornered, Turner commenced his assault on her.

Sheriff Buddy Money fired Turner in response to the investigation. Sheriff Money stated, “When I learned of the allegations against Turner, I immediately asked FDLE to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure impartiality. We prize integrity and respect in our members, and I moved to quickly terminate Turner once his actions came to light. His actions do not represent the high standards LCSO members are held to, and I am proud of the LCSO members who helped to preserve evidence and ensure the victims received justice.”

Liberty County Corrections Division states that the goal of the division is to provide a “safe, secure, and constitutional environment for all detainment of adults who have been arrested for misdemeanor and felony crimes in Liberty County.”

Turner has been charged with the Sexual Battery of a Victim 18 years of age or older under special circumstances. Turner was arrested on May 26, 2022, and is held without bond.

Sexual Battery of a Victim with Special Circumstances

There are many different charges for sexual battery. In this case, Turner was charged with sexual battery against a person under special circumstances. Under Florida Statute Section 794.011(4)(b), the charge means that the offender has committed sexual battery against an adult without consent, and at least one of the special circumstances in the statute applies. Consent means intelligent, knowing, and voluntary consent and does not include coerced submission.

The special circumstances outlined in the statute are:

  • The victim is physically helpless to resist. Physically helpless means that the person is unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to act.
  • The defendant coerces the victim to submit by threatening to use force or violence likely to cause serious personal injury to the victim, and the victim reasonably believes that the offender has the present ability to execute the threat.
  • The defendant coerces the victim to submit by threatening to retaliate against the victim.
  • The defendant administers to the victim any narcotic, anesthetic, or other intoxicating substance that mentally or physically incapacities the victim.
  • The victim is “mentally defective” meaning that the victim suffers from a mental disease or defect.
  • The victim is physically incapacitated, meaning that the victim is bodily impaired or handicapped and substantially limited in his or her ability to resist or flee.
  • The defendant is a law enforcement officer, correctional officer, or correctional probation officer and the offender was acting in such a manner as to lead the victim to reasonably believe that the defendant was in a position of control or authority as an agent or employee of the government.

Sexual battery on an adult victim in special circumstances is a first-degree felony punishable by 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Offenders who are found guilty of a sexual battery must register on the sexual offender registry.

In this case, Turner’s conduct may fall under multiple special circumstances. He was a correctional officer at the time of the incident, and it appears that he threatened and coerced the female inmate.

Applicable Federal Law

Under federal law, prison guards who commit sexual battery against an inmate in any prison, institution, or facility could face up to 15 years in federal prison.

Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act which states that inmates are not legally capable of giving consent to sex with a prison guard. The reason behind the statute is that there is an enormous power dynamic between an inmate and a prison guard. PREA requires that prisons implement policies to better protect inmates such as policies that require video monitoring.

Tallahassee Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged with a sex crime in Leon County or the surrounding areas, an experienced Tallahassee sexual offense attorney at Pumphrey Law can analyze the facts of your case and find an applicable defense. The lawyers at Pumphrey Law have decades of experience in criminal defense and can work to have your charges reduced or dismissed.

Pumphrey Law represents clients throughout Tallahassee and the surrounding areas of North Florida including Monticello in Jefferson County, Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Quincy in Gadsden County, and Bristol in Liberty County. Contact Pumphrey Law at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today for a free consultation.

Written by Melissa MacNicol

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