Jurors acquitted a Franklin woman of sexual battery charges that alleged she engaged in sexual conduct with an inmate she was to be supervising at Lebanon Correctional Institution.
A jury found Erica R. Douglas, 27, not guilty on charges accusing her of engaging in sexual conduct with inmate James Rose from November through December 2017.
Douglas supervised the inmate, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said at the time of the indictment.
But her lawyer said the key to their defense was proving Douglas was neither a supervisor nor employee of the prison, but a kitchen worker for Aramark, the food provider at the prison.
“She had no supervisory authority over the inmates. Her primary purpose was to supervise the preparation and distribution of food,” lawyer Laura Woodruff said after the trial.
Douglas was indicted in February on four counts of sexual battery.
On Wednesday, Fornshell said the law was designed for cases where a victim was coerced for sex by someone with authority or power over them.
“It sounds like the jury felt like the imbalance went the other way,” Fornshell said after discussing the case with staff who talked with jurors.
Assistant County Prosecutor Travis Vieux handled Douglas’ case.
Fornshell said the verdict did not mean the law could not be applied successfully to cases involving prison contractors.
“I’m sure that’s going to be a common defense going forward,” Fornshell added.
Whitney K. Fields, 34, of Cincinnati, is alleged to have smuggled Cathinone, the amphetamine found in Khat, a plant chewed for its narcotic effect, into the prison on June 12 for an inmate.
“Prison investigators discovered that she was having a relationship with an inmate and began investigating her,” Fornshell said after she was indicted in July.
Fields is scheduled for another pretrial before Judge Donald Oda II on Oct. 18.
Douglas pleaded not guilty. A trial was held Monday and Tuesday in Oda’s court.
Douglas and current Aramark employees testified. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
The jury deliberated for just over an hour, according to Woodruff.
Rose, rather than Douglas, was the “perpetrator,” Woodruff said.
Rose, 41, is serving a 15-year sentence for rape and kidnapping in Butler County.
“He wanted to make her his. He threatened her into doing things she wouldn’t have done,” Woodruff added.
Still, Douglas’ lawyer said the key to her acquittal was proving she was a contractor without authority over Rose.