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Sex claims spark new Wilson County jail probe
Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am
A new scandal – this one centering on sex rather than violence – has apparently erupted within the Wilson County Jail and could lead to yet another federal investigation of the facility.
District Attorney General Tommy Thompson as well as other sources confirmed Thursday that a former jail guard who remained on the job as recently as last month is under investigation over his alleged on-duty sexual encounters with a female inmate, a relationship which apparently rewarded her with special privileges behind bars.
Thompson and others close to the investigation indicated that charges are likely against former guard Gregory "Greg" Wilson, and the allegation could result in a return of federal investigators to the jail just three weeks after the U.S. Department of Justice completed an 18-month probe of the facility. The lengthy investigation resulted in an indictment against five one-time jailers and guilty pleas from four others on charges of beating prisoners and covering up the crimes.
Wilson was not implicated in the federal probe, which was triggered by the apparent January 2003 beating death of an inmate.
"There is an investigation going on," District Attorney General Tommy Thompson said when contacted about Wilson. "At this point, we're not sure that it's going to remain at the state level, but there is an investigation underway."
County payroll records show Wilson, a 14-month employee of the department believed to be in his early 20s, received his last sheriff's department paycheck July 30.
The allegation has been the focus of a recent inquiry conducted jointly by the District Attorney's office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Thompson confirmed, and was not a part of the federal probe which culminated with last month's indictment.
"This came up afterward," Thompson said. "The federal authorities are now taking a look into it too."
The recently completed probe – which left two of the five indicted former guards facing potential life prison sentences – began in much the same manner. In that case, the DA's office contacted the FBI while starting an investigation along with the TBI into the head injury death of Walter S. Kuntz, 43, who was identified in last month's federal indictment as one of 11 prisoners unlawfully beaten by the five alleged co-conspirators. Some of the co-conspirators remained on the job as jail guards until shortly before the indictment was returned.
An attempt Thursday to contact FBI Special Agent Scott Swallows, one of the leading investigators in the earlier probe, was unsuccessful.
However Thompson said the female inmate's allegation "could lead to another separate federal investigation" of the jail, which has also seen one of its commissary clerks indicted on theft charges in recent months.
He said a decision on whether state or federal authorities will handle the case will likely be made over the next few days.
"There will probably be some more interviews conducted before that's decided," Thompson said.
Sheriff Terry Ashe, when contacted about Wilson, said the officer resigned last month after an internal investigation into "policy and procedure issues."
"Some things came up that we weren't comfortable with, and he's no longer working here," Ashe said, adding that "no criminal allegations were substantiated" against Wilson during the sheriff's department internal investigation.
"Everything we found out we turned over to the DA's office. Whatever becomes of it will be up to them," the sheriff said.
Separate sources familiar with the probe – who asked to remain anonymous – both summed up the female prisoner's allegation in similar terms, saying she gained "special favors" from the relationship.
The woman is alleging Wilson "had sexual intercourse with her while on duty on multiple occasions, one of the sources said.
The claim against Wilson is not the first time allegations of sexual misconduct within the jail have arisen in recent years, an extensive review of jail incident reports conducted earlier this year by The Lebanon Democrat revealed.
In 2003, a female prisoner claimed to have engaged in a sexual relationship with a judicial commissioner. Though no charges resulted from the allegation, the commissioner did admit putting money on the female prisoner's jail commissary account but maintained the two did not have an intimate relationship. The same prisoner also maintained she had engaged in sex with a jail guard before she was incarcerated.
Ironically, one of the guards charged as a result of the prisoner brutality probe was also once the subject of a complaint with sexual overtones.
Former guard William Westmoreland – who pleaded guilty last November to federal assault charges for beating a prisoner – was the focus of a May 2002 complaint, the incident reports showed.
In that incident, a former female inmate's boyfriend complained that Westmoreland "had been going to her workplace repeatedly and offering rides and generally being around" the ex-prisoner, an incident report states.
The report quotes other corrections officers as saying Westmoreland "had made comments" about the former prisoner "and has told supervisors that he went to pick up on duty meals" at the restaurant where she was working.
Though the report states the complaint was turned over to a supervisor, no action was apparently taken against Westmoreland, who remained on the job until shortly before pleading guilty to the federal charges filed against him in a federal information last November.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.