FORT EDWARD — A former part-time corrections officer at Washington County Jail was arrested Thursday for allegedly having sexual contact with a female prisoner in the jail, police said.
Brandon M. Donaldson, 22, of Whitehall, was charged with two felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual act after an investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Donaldson is not accused of forcing the woman to have sex, but under state law, inmates can not legally consent to sexual contact with jail staff, and encounters are crimes.
Donaldson was a part-time guard at the jail for about two years, and was fired after police determined the veracity of allegations, Washington County Sheriff Jeff Murphy said.
Murphy said the investigation began in recent weeks with a tip about contraband potentially being brought into the jail, and police then learned of allegations that a prisoner and staff member had been involved sexually. Both the inmate and Donaldson cooperated with investigators, the sheriff said.
The Washington County District Attorney’s office presented the evidence to a grand jury, which indicted Donaldson.
Murphy said the alleged sexual encounters did not occur in a cell, but in an area of the jail where Donaldson arranged to meet with the prisoner. He said the inquiry was ongoing, and did not rule out additional arrests.
Court records show that Donaldson told police that the encounters occurred in a “slop closet” and that the inmate, whose family he knew from the Whitehall area, “flirted” and initiated physical contact.
He wrote that he felt bad and knew the encounters should not have happened.
Murphy said other officers had reported that the inmate had been flirtatious with them as well.
The inmate flashed her breasts at him at one point, then sent him pictures of herself in lingerie through social media when she got out, he told police in a statement filed in Washington County Court.
The woman was in jail at the time on charges stemming from a home burglary and has since pleaded guilty to a felony, and was sentenced to probation and to participate in the county’s drug treatment court.
The sheriff said policies and procedures will be analyzed to lessen the likelihood these types of incidents occur.
“We will learn from this and make ourselves better,” he said. “We are committed to running a professional operation. Unfortunately, these things happen, and when they do, we will make sure they are investigated and those involved are held accountable.”
Donaldson was arraigned in Washington County Court on Friday afternoon and released on his own recognizance. His lawyer, John Oswald, said he had no prior criminal record and was a lifelong resident of Whitehall who had no family elsewhere and nowhere to flee.
He is due back in court on Dec. 8.
The charges are each punishable by up to 4 years in state prison.