Newton County Detention Officer James Trevor Latham was arrested Monday on charges of sexual assault and sodomy involving a female inmate, as well as violating his oath of office.
The 56-year-old Covington resident was also placed on unpaid administrative suspension. Capt. Sammy Banks, who oversees jail operations, said Thursday that further personnel action will take place next week. Latham was hired by the sheriff's office in September 2008.
As a precautionary measure, Banks said, inmate crews and housing units will only be supervised by same-sex officers.
Latham had sexual contact with a female inmate while he was supervising her clean up crew, said Lt. Keith Crum, with the department's office of professional standards. The crews clean the entire sheriff's department. Latham was booked into a jail outside Newton County, for his safety, on $11,200 bond.
Crum said the sexual contact was not forced, but under the law a jail supervisor cannot have sex with an inmate. Consent by the inmate is irrelevant.
If convicted, Latham would face one to 25 years of imprisonment or a $100,000 fine or both for sexual assault, one to 20 years for sodomy and one to five years for violating his oath of office.
"It's a sad situation, but it happened. Once wrongdoing takes place, we will take immediate action to correct it. The sheriff's office employees are held to the same standard as the public," Crum said.
In 2010, a female Newton County detention officer had an inappropriate relationship with convicted murderer Cobey Wade Lakemper, leading to the firing of her supervisor. The jailer had already been let go because of budget cuts.
Banks said the two situations are completely different, and he did not think the incidents had to do with the department's screening process.
"Incidents are going to happen. A lot of people like to use the example of a bad apple. That doesn't mean the individual is bad, but the choices made are bad," Banks said. "Sheriff Brown stands firm behind the officers and staff, and I strongly agree with him that we have the best staff in the state."
"We hire from the same pool as everybody else does. Occasionally disciplinary actions are needed, and we'll take care of them as they come up," Crum said.
There are currently five detention officer vacancies.