A jail employee accused of sexual contact with an inmate received a suspended jail sentence Monday after pleading guilty to a lesser offense.
Kimberly Ann Johnson, 38, of Rapid City pleaded guilty to delivering prohibited items to an inmate at the Pennington County Jail in September.
“She sent letters to an inmate under a pseudonym … which constituted contraband,” Johnson’s lawyer Tim Rensch told the court Monday afternoon. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in county jail.
At the time of incident, Johnson was a staff assistant at the jail’s medical department, where she had been working for two years, according to court documents.
She originally was charged with a felony — sexual contact between a jail employee and detainee — after jail administrators reportedly found surveillance video, phone calls and letters that pointed to a romantic relationship between Johnson and a 39-year-old male inmate. The offense carries a two-year maximum prison sentence.
A search of the inmate’s cell turned up sexually explicit letters, believed to have been sent by Johnson under an alias, according to an investigator’s report filed in court.
Johnson was terminated on Sept. 20, according to the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail. This was two days after communication between Johnson and the inmate was reportedly discovered.
Magistrate Judge Todd Hyronimus, of the 7th Judicial Court, sentenced Johnson to 360 days in jail but suspended the imposition, in accordance with her plea agreement with prosecutors. She won’t serve time and the crime will later be sealed from public view.
Two people have previously been charged in Pennington County with sexual act between a jail employee and detainee, according to a search of state court records going back to 1989, when records were first computerized. Both were charged in 2003.
Geoffrey Atherton, who worked at a halfway house for offenders, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of sexual contact without consent with a woman capable of consenting. He was sentenced to four months in jail and 18 months of probation for the misdemeanor.
Jennifer Leighty, an employee at the county jail, allegedly had sexual activity with two male inmates. Her case is closed, said state court spokeswoman Jill Gusso, but the outcome of Leighty’s prosecution is unclear since her case is sealed from public view.