A Rapid City woman is accused of having sexual contact with a detainee while she was an employee at the Pennington County Jail.
Kimberly Ann Johnson, 38, has pleaded not guilty to the felony offense, which allegedly occurred at the jail in September and involved 39-year-old federal inmate Marcus Espinosa, according to court records. The offense is punishable by up to two years in prison.
The filing of the criminal charge followed a jail correctional officer’s discovery Sept. 18 of a phone call between Johnson and Espinosa, suggesting they were “in a romantic relationship,” states a Pennington County Sheriff’s Office report obtained from the county courthouse.
Johnson was then a staff assistant at the jail’s medical department, where she had been working for two years, reads the report by Investigator Scott Sitzes.
Jail surveillance video showed Johnson and Espinosa had been alone in an “interview room” for 24 minutes and 46 minutes on separate occasions, according to the six-page document. The sexual contact is believed to be consensual.
The reports says jail administrators found 88 phone calls from the jail to a number later found to be Johnson’s, as well as 13 calls from Johnson’s number to the jail, all made between July and September.
Johnson’s number was a Colorado number, specifically obtained “so suspicions wouldn’t be raised about (Espinosa) calling a local number,” Sitzes wrote.
A search of Espinosa’s cell apparently also yielded sexually explicit letters believed meant for Johnson and some sent by her under an alias.
She was terminated on Sept. 20, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail.
As part of Johnson’s employment training, Sitzes wrote, she signed documents that laid out jail policy on relationships between its staff and detainees.
“Establishing a romantic relationship with an inmate, client, detainees, or current probationers or parolees is strictly prohibited … that may create a conflict of interest,” reads a portion of the policy, which the sheriff’s office provided to the Journal.
This is not the first time such an offense has occurred, said sheriff’s office spokeswoman Helene Duhamel. It has happened “several times,” she said, adding that jail officials take these reports seriously and investigate them thoroughly. Details on the other cases were not immediately available.
To monitor any inappropriate contact between jail staff and inmates, jail administrators review several types of inmate correspondence and the facility’s surveillance video, Duhamel said. There are a few areas in the jail that legally cannot have video surveillance, she added.
Johnson was arrested Sept. 25 and granted bond on the same day. She wasn’t detained in jail. Her case is ongoing.