Former Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Having Sexual Contact with Inmate

Plea agreement would result in defendant being placed on probation

A former correctional officer at the Wyoming Women’s Center pleaded guilty to two criminal counts last week for having sexual contact with an inmate in 2021. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Department of Corrections)

By CJ Baker

Special to the Wyoming Truth

A former correctional officer has admitted to having sexual contact with an inmate at Wyoming’s women’s prison in the fall of 2021.

Clint Shepherd, 51, pleaded guilty in Niobrara County District Court on Tuesday to a felony count of third-degree sexual assault and a misdemeanor count of sexual battery. If District Court Judge Scott Peasley accepts a plea deal struck between the prosecution and defense, Shepherd will be placed on supervised probation and given an opportunity to have the felony dismissed at a later date.

Prosecutors charged that, between mid-September and late October 2021, Shepherd had sexual contact with an inmate at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk. During this week’s hearing, the longtime correctional officer admitted to a specific incident in which he’d touched the woman’s intimate parts and chest through her clothes. Shepherd’s defense attorney described the incident as being a part of a “relationship” with the inmate.

Wyoming law prohibits anyone working in the correctional system from engaging in sexual activity with inmates or anyone else under the supervision of the system. “Consent of the victim is not a defense,” the law adds

The Niobrara County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office initially charged Shepherd with two felony counts of second-degree sexual assault, alleging he went as far as “sexual intrusion” with the inmate. However, those charges — which would have carried a minimum of two years of prison time — were reduced under a plea deal finalized  this month.

Defense attorney Christina Williams of Gillette said the arrangement calls for Shepherd to receive a deferral on the third-degree sexual assault charge, meaning it would be dismissed if he successfully completes probation. The length of that probation would be left up to Peasley, who could impose as much as five years of supervision. The judge will also need to decide what prison sentence to suspend and, as Williams put it, “hang over Mr. Shepherd’s head.” Assuming Peasley approves the agreement, prison time would only be imposed if Shepherd violates the terms of his probation.

Unlike most felony cases filed in Wyoming courts, the charges against Shepherd were not accompanied by an affidavit detailing the allegations. Niobrara County and Prosecuting Attorney Anne Wasserburger wrote only that the case was “based upon verified information” — an apparent reference to an internal investigation conducted by the Wyoming Department of Corrections.

The department’s full, unredacted investigative report was provided to the defense, but under tight restrictions. In a September court filing, the department said the records “contain interviews and other sensitive information that could lead to staff and inmates being targeted for harassment or physical violence.” A senior assistant attorney general wrote that allowing the records to be freely disseminated would “create an immediate and credible threat to the safety of the inmates in the Department’s custody and undermine the good order of the Department’s facilities.”

Shepherd had served with the Department of Corrections since April 2006 and reached the rank of correctional lieutenant, according to a department spokesperson. His employment ended on May 10, 2022, and Niobrara County filed charges roughly a month later. Shepherd turned himself in to law enforcement on July 11, a few days after his wife filed for divorce, court records show.

The South Dakota resident has remained free on an unsecured bond and a prosecutor described Shepherd as “totally cooperative with the court.” He’ll be sentenced in Lusk once a presentence investigation is compiled by the Department of Corrections; Peasley said that will take place in about 90 days.

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