SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (WCAX) An inmate's appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court argues that prison officials failed to properly supervise a female guard and investigate their sexual relationship. A relationship that resulted in the officer getting pregnant with the inmate's child.
Back in 2013, former corrections officer Leanne Salls pleaded guilty to having sex with an inmate at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Springfield. Officials say the relationship was consensual and resulted in Salls getting pregnant.
Daniel McCabe is the lawyer for James Ingerson, the inmate who sued the Vermont Department of Corrections. "She had a live in boyfriend on the outside. She decided she was going to start a relationship on the inside of the prison where she worked. She acted on this plan. This was premeditated. There is no dispute she initiated contact," McCabe told the justices during oral arguments Tuesday.
Ingerson's sued the DOC, claiming it failed to properly supervise Salls and investigate the relationship, which under state law is considered sexual exploitation.
"At a certain point, DOC had more than enough information and more than enough red flags that they should have been separated," McCabe said.
A lower court ruled that the DOC had discretion in how it conducted its investigation and that it was immune to this type of lawsuit.
Assistant Attorney General David Groff represented the DOC before the high court. "Let me start off by saying, Ms. Salls committed a crime, Ms. Salls faced prosecution for that crime, and was convicted of that crime," Groff told the justices.
The appeal to the Supreme Court asserts that the state should not be immune from wrongdoing and that DOC breached its duty by failing to take appropriate steps which included installing cameras at certain locations of the prison.
"It is a little odd to me, the suggestions that the department has attempted to avoid liability by not adopting a further policy. The only policy in place requiring an investigation came from the department," Groff said.
Its not clear when the court will return a ruling. The case was one of five argued at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton.