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Ohio jail internship program paused after sex, smuggling allegations

Criminal justice student charged with two felony accounts for smuggling drugs and cellphones into the county jail

By Lauren Pack

HAMILTON, Ohio — An internship program that places Butler Tech students in the Butler County Jail for job training was paused in March after it was discovered a 17-year-old female intern had contact with two inmates that allegedly included smuggling and sex.

Officials said the program could resume in the fall.

The March 1 incidents resulted in the female Butler Tech student in the criminal justice program being charged in juvenile court with two felony counts of illegal conveyance into a detention facility, a misdemeanor charge of the same crime, and misdemeanor obstructing official business, according to court documents.

The intern, who turned 18 this month, is accused of bringing marijuana, ecstasy and cellphones into the facility on two occasions, documents said. She also is accused of being less than truthful to investigators during the investigation that led to a lockdown of the inmate pod.

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Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office said the intern admitted to consensual sex with an inmate. No one has been charged with any sex-related offense in the matter.

“If she was three months older and we hired her as an 18-year-old, she would have been charged criminally with a sexual assault because you are in control,” Dwyer said, explaining she wasn’t charged because she wasn’t a sheriff’s office employee.

“She was just shy of 18, she said it was consensual. He denied it in its entirely, so based on the totality, we decided not to bring charges against him.”

Dwyer said the inmates were not charged with breaking any jail rules or crimes for the contraband she allegedly brought in because a search of cell and pod did not turn up anything on the day the investigation began.

Attorney Joe Auciello , who represents the teen charged, said, “I was just surprised that the internship program was running with juveniles in the jail.”

The “Louder with Crowder” podcast and website first reported the incidents Wednesday, saying inmates coerced the intern into smuggling items into the jail and groomed her for sex. The report also was critical of the sheriff’s office and school for accountability about the program.

Dwyer said the intern was one of about half a dozen from Butler Tech to go through the program as an unpaid intern. Dwyer noted they recently hired an 18-year-old graduate as a corrections officer.

Dwyer said the intern was never alone in the jail pod, which is less than the size of a basketball court.

“There was a CO with her,” Dwyer said. “She was in a pod where an officer was, and when the officer was making rounds, she dipped into a cell. She made an effort to participate.”

Dwyer said the intern program was suspended in March, pending the investigation, but could begin again when school is back in session. That decision has not yet been made.

Butler Tech responds

A.J. Huff , Butler Tech spokeswoman, said the program was suspended and will be re-evaluated.

“We did suspend the program at the time, because obviously she didn’t continue there,” Huff said. “Each fall there is a discussion of who we partner with and what businesses in all programs, and what the right fit is for the student we have each year. So that will have to be a conversation that we have once we are back in session.”

She said before students begin an internship program, whether it is with the sheriff, a welding company or a fire department, “because we do have business partners that could be potentially dangerous,” students must pass all the necessary assessments, plus meet grade and attendance requirements. Students and parents or guardians have responsibilities that are spelled out in a signed agreement, Huff said.

In March, the sheriff’s office received information from someone in the facility that a corrections officer was bringing in contraband and engaging in sex with a prisoner, according to Dwyer. The investigation pointed to the intern, whom he said inmates did not know was not a staff corrections officer.

Through an investigation, including reviews of phone calls and cellphone data, detectives questioned her and filed charges. Dwyer said she “admits to bringing contraband in and admits to consensual sexual activity with one of the inmates.”

‘She was warned about it’

The two inmates involved are federal prisoners with one convicted of murder.

Dwyer said, “They are bad guys. They are evil, rough inmates.”

When interviewed, the inmates denied any sexual activity, he said.

Detectives later became aware of sexually explicit letters written by the inmates to the intern about sexual activity.

“She knew this type of manipulation could happen, especially for contraband, and she was warned about it,” Dwyer said. “We have sent adult COs to prison for stuff like this.”

Dwyer said appropriate authorities were notified about the incidents in March, including the U.S. marshals the jail contracts with to house federal inmates.

Auciello said his client is not charged with any misconduct relating to alleged sexual activity with an inmate.

Auciello filed a motion to suppress the teenager’s statements to detectives.

Dwyer said it appears the intern fell victim to manipulation.

“I have a lot of compassion for a bad situation, but I also think we are not talking about someone who is 13, and they are coming from a criminal justice program. In this type of environment, if you are determined to do something, it is almost impossible to stop. You can’t watch everybody every second, 100 percent,” he said.


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