December 5, 2023 - A former private prisoner transport officer, Marquet Johnson, 44, pleaded guilty on Monday to violating the civil rights of multiple female pretrial detainees by sexually assaulting them during prisoner transports.
“Sexual assaults carried out by law enforcement officials at any stage of the criminal justice process, including in the transport of detainees held in custody, have no place in our society,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This egregious conduct violates federal civil rights law, and the Justice Department will continue to resolutely seek justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes.”
“Every person has a basic right to dignity and respect,” said U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez for the District of New Mexico. “And nobody, no matter the crime of which they are being accused, deserves to be raped. When jailers fail their duty to those in their charge, they will join them in custody.”
“Law enforcement officers and other officials receive certain powers from the government so they can defend the rights of the people and prevent wrongdoing,” said Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “When individuals working in an official capacity violate the trust of their communities by abusing that power, they undermine the hard work of all officials. The despicable actions perpetuated by Johnson, against those he was entrusted to protect, have no place in society. When you break the trust, you’re given as a member of law enforcement and ultimately break the law, there are consequences. Monday’s plea is a resounding reminder that the FBI is committed to restoring trust in law enforcement by holding those who abuse their privileges and abandon their responsibilities accountable. I commend the hard work of our agents, our law enforcement partners with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office and the U.S Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico with helping to bring justice to the victims in this case and holding Johnson to account for his crimes.”
According to the plea agreement, at the time of the offense, Johnson worked as a prisoner transport officer for Inmate Services Corporation (ISC). As a prisoner transport officer, Johnson performed the government function of picking up individuals who were arrested on out-of-state warrants and transporting those individuals back to the jurisdictions that issued the warrants. On Nov. 4, 2019, Johnson and his transport partner picked up the victim, a female pretrial detainee, from a jail in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to transport her to Delta County, Colorado.
That same day, while still in New Mexico, Johnson’s transport partner stopped the transport van at a gas station. As soon as Johnson’s transport partner walked away from the van, Johnson ordered the victim to move to the bench row in the back of the transport van, climbed into the back of the van, removed the victim’s ankle restraints, and loosened her handcuffs. The victim told Johnson that she was unsure what was going on but said that she did not want “to do this.” In response, Johnson pulled out a dangerous weapon, and, resting the weapon on his lap, told the victim that he wanted her to cooperate with him, “otherwise, it was going to get ugly.”
Johnson then ordered the victim to partially remove her clothing and lay down on her back. The victim did so but again told Johnson she did not want to do this. In response, Johnson held the weapon against the victim’s cheek while raping her. Johnson admitted that the victim did not consent to any of the sexual conduct, and his conduct included the use of a dangerous weapon and aggravated sexual abuse.
Johnson further admitted that this was not the first female pretrial detainee he sexually assaulted during an ISC prisoner transport. Johnson admitted that in July 2019, he transported another female pretrial detainee from Spencer, Indiana to San Marcos, Texas. While enroute to Texas, during a stop at ISC headquarters in West Memphis, Arkansas, Johnson forced the detainee to perform oral sex on him. Johnson admitted that this victim also did not consent to any of the sexual conduct and that his misconduct included aggravated sexual abuse.
Finally, Johnson admitted that in August 2019, he transported yet another female pretrial detainee from Baker County, Oregon to Warrensburg, Missouri. While in Missouri, Johnson stopped the transport van at a hotel, where he raped her. A short time later Johnson brought the female detainee back outside to the transport van and, after resuming the transport, forced the female detainee to perform oral sex on him. Johnson admitted that this victim also did not consent to any of the sexual conduct and that his misconduct included aggravated sexual abuse and kidnapping.
A sentencing hearing will be set on a later date. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Johnson faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, to be followed by up to five years of supervised release. In addition, Johnson must pay restitution and, upon release, adhere to state and federal sex offender registration requirements.
The FBI Albuquerque Field Office investigated the case, with assistance from the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Office.
Trial Attorney Laura Gilson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Brawley for the District of New Mexico are prosecuting the case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Western District of Missouri.
Source: DOJ Release