Ex-corrections officer gets probation on inappropriate conduct count
A former corrections officer with the Carter County Detention Center has pleaded guilty to inappropriate conduct with an inmate under her supervision and was sentenced to six months probation.
Kristie Lynn Churchill, of Elizabethton, pled guilty to one count of “offensive touching” in Carter County Criminal Court on Tuesday as part of a plea agreement, which will result in her serving six months of unsupervised probation and paying a $25 fine as well as court costs.
As part of the plea agreement with the State, Churchill was allowed to plea under judicial diversion. Judge Stacy Street, who presided over the case, explained the terms of judicial diversion to Churchill in court on Tuesday. He said that under diversion, she would be placed on probation for a period of time and that if she successfully completed her probation, passed all drug screens and received no further criminal charges, the guilty plea may be erased from her record.
Once a person granted diversion completes the terms set by the court, they must then apply through the court asking that their record be expunged.
“If you do not do what you are supposed to or if you do something you are not supposed to, this court can take the diversion away and impose the sentence,” Street said.
Churchill was originally indicted by a Carter County grand jury on one count of sexual battery by an authority figure and one count of official misconduct. The charge of official misconduct against Churchill was dismissed on Dec. 6, 2013. The charge of sexual battery by an authority figure, which is a Class C felony, was reduced to a charge of offensive touching, which is a Class B misdemeanor, as part of the plea agreement.
The charges against Churchill were the result of an internal investigation by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department into an inmate’s report that an incident took place between April 26, 2013, and May 1, 2013, while she was employed as a corrections officer with the Carter County Detention Center.
A female inmate who was incarcerated during that time period reported to Detention Center administration that Churchill had touched her inappropriately. The indictment against Churchill states she was in a position of authority over the victim “by nature of (her) occupation as a corrections officer with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.”
Assistant District Attorney Janet Hardin said in court on Tuesday that the charge against Churchill was lowered in part due to inconsistent statements given by the inmate in the case in which the inmate claimed that Churchill touched her breast in an inappropriate manner.
Hardin said that the victim gave a recorded statement to investigators with the Sheriff’s Department during the investigation and that initial statement supported the charge of sexual battery by an authority figure.
“Since that time this inmate has given her statement to the defense,” Hardin said, adding that the two statements did not match up. Hardin said that due to the inmate changing her statement, the State was unable to proceed with the original charge of sexual battery by an authority figure.
The charge of “offensive touching” is included under the section on assault in state law, which describes offensive touching as occurring when someone “intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.”
Attorney Lisa Nidiffer Rice, who represented Churchill in this case, said that the defense was disputing the facts in the case, but was entering a plea in the best interest of the defendant.
“We believe the proof would show that there was no sexual gratification from the touching,” Rice said.
After the plea was entered and the sentence rendered, Street addressed Churchill once again.
“Because you are on unsupervised probation there will be no need for you to meet with a probation officer,” he said. “Please remember what I told you here today.”
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