A private prisoner transport officer raped women in his custody as pretrial detainees, including one woman he held a weapon to, federal prosecutors said.
While an officer for Inmate Services Corporation, Marquet Johnson, 44, raped two pretrial detainees and forced another woman to perform oral sex as he transported them on separate occasions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico.
The sexual assaults happened in 2019, over the course of four months, prosecutors said.
Johnson, of West Memphis, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of one of the women by sexually assaulting her, the attorney’s office announced in a Dec. 4 news release.
In his plea agreement, he said he sexually assaulted the two other pretrial detainees in the months before the rape in New Mexico. He is now facing up to 30 years in prison, prosecutors said.
McClatchy News contacted a federal public defender representing Johnson for comment on Dec. 5 and didn’t receive a response.
“Every person has a basic right to dignity and respect,” said U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez said in the news release. “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,” Uballez added.
‘Egregious conduct violates federal law’
Jails and prisons in the U.S. hire ISC officers to pick up people arrested on out-of-state warrants and transport them to the proper jurisdictions.
In July 2019, Johnson and his ISC partner picked up a pretrial detainee from Spencer, Indiana, to take her to the Hays County Jail in San Marco, Texas, according to his plea agreement.
On the way there, they stopped at the ISC headquarters in West Memphis, Arkansas, after the woman asked to use the restroom, the plea agreement says.
Johnson led her inside and after she walked out of the bathroom, he shut off the lights, grabbed her and forced her to perform oral sex without her consent, according to the plea agreement.
The next month, in August 2019, Johnson and his partner picked up a woman from Baker County, Oregon to take her to the Johnson County Jail in Warrensburg, Missouri, the plea agreement says.
Johnson and his partner separated after he told the officer that he’d transport the woman alone — and suggested his partner transport other pretrial detainees, who were men, in a different vehicle, according to the plea agreement.
While alone with the woman, Johnson started rubbing the woman’s feet and legs and made sexual requests of her that she denied during the drive, the plea agreement says.
Then, he pulled up to a Super 8 hotel, booked a room and raped the pretrial detainee in the hotel room before resuming the drive, when he later forced her to perform oral sex, according to the plea agreement.
“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,” prosecutors said in the release.
In November 2019, Johnson raped a pretrial detainee in New Mexico as they were on their way to a correctional center in Delta County, Colorado, the plea agreement says.
When his partner went inside a gas station to grab breakfast, Johnson ordered the woman to move to the bench row in the back of the ISC van, where he removed her ankle restraints and loosened her handcuffs, according to the plea agreement.
After the woman told Johnson “she did not want ‘to do this,’” Johnson pulled out a gun and told her to cooperate, or “otherwise, it was going to get ugly,” the plea agreement says.
Johnson then raped her while holding the weapon to her cheek, according to prosecutors.
He was indicted in January on two counts in connection with raping this woman, court filings show.
Johnson specifically pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment: the willful deprivation of rights under color of law, including the use of a dangerous weapon and aggravated sexual abuse, according to the plea agreement.
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in the news release. “This egregious conduct violates federal law, and the Justice Department will continue to resolutely seek justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes.”
The FBI’s Albuquerque Field Office investigated Johnson with the help of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, the release said.
If you have experienced sexual assault and need someone to talk to, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support at 1-800-656-4673 or visit the hotline's online chatroom.