YUMA, Ariz. – Three Yuma County sheriff's detention officers arrested on charges of having sex with female jail inmates have been released on bond after a court hearing.
Jose Espinoza, 26, was initially charged with six counts of unlawful sexual contact, but additional charges of sexual assault and kidnapping were filed by prosecutors Friday. He was ordered to undergo electronic monitoring while out on bail.
Officer Justin Herrera, 26, was charged with two counts of unlawful sexual conduct by a corrections officer. Officer Kenneth Smith, 34, was charged with one count of sexual assault and three counts of unlawful sexual conduct by a corrections officer.
Yuma County prosecutor James Eustace said Espinoza was charged with the more serious crimes because he lured his alleged victim by lying about a visitor being at the jail. Eustace alleged in court that Espinoza led the victim into a room without camera surveillance and forced her to have sex.
How Herrera and Smith allegedly staged their sexual encounters has not been publicly released. Sheriff's officials said they were consensual.
The arrest of the three jail guards was announced Wednesday, just a day after sheriff's officials launched an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at the county jail after receiving a tip and took them into custody. Sheriff Ralph Ogden said the men had ongoing sexual encounters with four inmates and the incidents had been happening for at least two months.
Eustace asked Judge David Cooper to deny bail to Espinoza, saying he was a danger to the community.
"It is ... the state's opinion that the same thing could happen in the regular world," Eustace said.
But Espinoza's lawyer, Gregory Torok, said his client was a citizen "in good standing" prior to his arrest and should be released.
A woman who identified herself as a victim of Espinoza was in court and asked the judge to take steps to protect her from him.
"I just want to be safe when I go from where I live to Crossroads Mission to do my treatment," said the woman, who is not being identified because she is a victim of an alleged sex crime.
Cooper said he considered bail for all three men because they lacked any criminal records, in contrast to most defendants who appeared before him.
"This is a class of people you and I so rarely see in this courtroom," Cooper told Eustace. He added that while the allegations are certainly not good, seeing defendants without long rap sheets is a "breath of fresh air."
Bail for each was set at $25,000.
The three officers are due back in court for a preliminary hearing on July 3.