March 12, 2010

Ex-guard jailed for sex with inmates


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Doug Jones/staff photographer: Monday, January, 26, 2008: Bradford Howard former Windham Corrections officer glances up at his commanding officer after his character testimony at Howard's sentencing hearing in Portland Superior Court. Howard received 120 days of jail time for gross sexual assault on two female inmates at the institution.

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — To his family and his commander in the Army, Bradford Howard is a model citizen who made some bad decisions while struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress after returning to Maine from Iraq.

To the prosecutors and detectives who investigated his misconduct as a prison guard, the 37-year-old Howard is a sex predator who abused his authority and the system.

On Monday, as Superior Court Justice Roland Cole sentenced the Lyman man to four months in jail for having sex with inmates, he said Howard matched both descriptions.

''What you did was very wrong, but there are a lot of good things that can be said about you,'' Cole said during the sentencing hearing at Cumberland County Superior Court. ''In my view I'm giving you a chance, and your family a chance.''

Both Howard and his pregnant wife, Jessie, who sat at the back of the courtroom, wiped away tears as Cole handed down the sentence of three years in prison, with all but four months suspended.

Minutes earlier, Jessie Howard begged Cole to be lenient with her husband. She said she has forgiven him for his infidelity and hopes to rebuild the trust they lost.

Howard, a sergeant in the Army, was hired in 2006 as a guard at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham after returning from an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq. Howard was assigned to a female unit at the Windham facility.

Julia Sheridan, the assistant district attorney who handled the case, said Howard had sex with two female inmates over a span of two weeks in February 2008. Under Maine law, it is a felony for corrections officers to have sex with inmates, regardless of the circumstances.

''In prison, these inmates have their entire lives controlled by the guards,'' Sheridan said during the sentencing hearing.

Guards have power over which inmates receive merits, which ones get punished and which ones are labeled as ''rats.'' Sheridan said that even though Howard made no promises or threats to the two inmates, the abuse of authority remains the same.

''It really is a fiction to say that this is a consensual sexual activity,'' Sheridan said. ''He has extensive training that he was supposed to keep boundaries with inmates.''

Howard and another guard at the same unit, Glen Works, were investigated by detectives from the Maine Attorney General's Office. They were arrested and indicted by a grand jury in July. Both resigned from their jobs before the indictments.

Howard pleaded guilty last month to four counts of gross sexual assault.

Works, of Mechanic Falls, has already pleaded guilty and was fined on misdemeanor charges of failure to report sexual abuse of a person in custody.

Sheridan said Howard had sex with one inmate on Feb. 8 and 9, and then with the other inmate on Feb. 15 and 22. She said Works conducted cell checks during the times when Howard was having sex, and Works overlooked the absence of the women during those times.

Sheridan, who asked for an 18-month jail term, also noted that at the time of the incidents, Howard and his wife had a 2-month-old baby at home.

The prosecutor asked Cole to send Howard to jail for 18 months.

Howard's defense attorney, Mary Davis, asked Cole to impose a 10-day jail sentence to be followed by probation. Davis said Howard has no prior criminal record and feels embarrassed and ashamed about what he did. Howard has taken full responsibility for his misconduct, Davis said.

''This activity is clearly an aberration,'' she said. ''He is highly unlikely to commit another crime.''

Howard has had an extremely difficult time resuming a normal life in Maine following his tour of duty in Iraq, Davis said. He has received counseling for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Davis told Cole that although Howard's conduct was admittedly wrong, he never used force, threats or promises to coerce the inmates.

''It was willing participation by two adult women,'' Davis said. ''These are not naive young girls.''

Besides his wife, two others -- including his commanding officer in the Army -- spoke on behalf of Howard during the hearing.

Jessie Howard said her husband's stress level was so high, he often would duck for cover at the sound of lightning, fireworks or other loud noises. They are expecting their second child.

''It did not and has not crossed my mind that we couldn't get past this,'' she told Justice Cole. ''I have forgiven my husband.''

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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