HEADLINE: Ex-corrections officer is found not guilty of sexual harassment
BYLINE: David Hafetz, American-Statesman Staff
A former corrections officer at the Austin state jail on Wednesday was found not guilty of charges that he sexually harassed a female inmate in 1999.
Rory D. Smith was accused of making sexual gestures to the woman from outside her cell and was charged with official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor. At trial, prosecutors said Smith, 32, acknowledged making the gesture but said it was in the context of asking the inmate about her relationship with another guard.
Smith could not be reached for comment.
Wednesday's verdict is the latest setback the Travis County district attorney's office has encountered in prosecuting former guards at the Travis County Community Justice Center.
Last fall, two guards charged with sexual assault were convicted -- one by a plea, the other by jury verdict -- of lesser charges that they improperly engaged in sexual activity with female inmates. Misdemeanor charges of official oppression against another guard were dismissed in November.
The guards at the center worked for Wackenhut Corrections Corp., which had a contract with the county to run the jail. The center, opened in 1997 to house nonviolent felons, was intended to be a model for other state jails.
Prosecutors say the cases are difficult to try partly because the accusers are convicts, and partly because they involve issues of power that can be hard for jurors to grasp.
"The gravity of the offense comes from the imbalance of power," District Attorney Ronnie Earle said.
Prosecutors still are pursuing charges of sexual assault and misconduct against at least eight other former Wackenhut employees. Earle said Wednesday's verdict did not spell trouble for the remaining cases.
Clean up the corruption in all the prisons, rather a tall order I would say. No, I can't help you there since the problem is as old as the "system" itself....I'm sure lots of deep thinkers such as yourself, have the inside tract on such. As far as this company goes, yes I believe I could help them with their uncanny ability to keep poor staff members in circulation. dgan 74's post was accurate.
Mcprison, once again if the C/O's are wrong they need to punished. I am currently trying to find out if this Ronnie Earle has ever went after any other C/O'S from the state. So far what I have picked up shows that he has not. It appears he has taken on Wachenhut on 5 occasions. I am glad to see that this man was cleared. When men work with Female inmates this has and will continue to be a major problem in all systems. Mr Earle just chooses to go after WHC. Thanks for posting this article.
PS It looks like Whc has at least choose to get rid of the C/O'S in question. The problems in the Mens prisons across the U.S. are worse than that in the womens units. With the increase of Women C/O'S in the Mens Units, most places are losing 2-3 a month for getting involved with the male inmates. This does not cause the uproar that the Men on Women offense does. But it is just as wrong.
WCC allowed this behavior to continue for over 18 months with this particular officer. The incident was caught on tape. Don't forget that the previously mentioned officers convicted included a Shift Lieutenant, whe was never officially reprimanded for his actions. The facilities administration is to blame, many of whom are still employed with WCC. The former Warden is now a Regional Director! Are you sure they're trying to rectify the situation. Oh yeah, I forgot, they appointed an OMBUDSMAN, who happens to be the former Warden of the infamous Santa Rosa stabbings!