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Ex-prison worker’s defense: Touching wasn’t consensual

July 24, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prison dental instructor accused of molesting female inmates is seeking to have the charges against him dismissed, arguing that the law he’s charged with breaking requires consent and he’s accused of touching the women without their consent.

Prosecutors allege that Tomas Co molested five female inmates at the Topeka Correctional Facility between 2011 and 2018 while teaching them how to make dentures.

Co, who has been fired, is charged with five felony counts of unlawful sexual relations, which is defined as “engaging in consensual sexual intercourse, lewd fondling or touching or sodomy” between a corrections employee and an offender.

His attorney, Christopher Joseph, argues in a court brief that the charges don’t fit the law’s definition because the five women testified during a preliminary hearing in June that the touching incidents weren’t consensual, The Kansas City Star reported.

“There is an entirely different set of crimes that apply to non-consensual acts, ranging from misdemeanor sexual battery to rape,” Joseph said in a statement emailed to the newspaper. “Regardless of what crime is charged, I believe that Dr. Co will be acquitted at trial.”

The Shawnee County district attorney’s office wrote in a legal brief that requiring the state to prove sexual conduct was consensual in an unlawful sexual relations case “would lead to an absurd result.”

“We believe the defendant’s conduct was prohibited by the statute we relied on to bring these charges,” District Attorney Mike Kagay said. “If the court disagrees, then I will address this issue with the legislature in the coming year.”

The prosecutor’s office didn’t immediately respond to phone messages Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Kansas state Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, who chairs the Legislature’s corrections committee, said he thinks the judge will decline to dismiss the charges against Co, but that if the law’s language needs to be clarified, the Legislature will likely do so.

A ruling will likely be handed down at the next hearing set for August 16.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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