A case against a Fairfield woman charged with four felony counts of sexual contact with an inmate has been dismissed following a preliminary hearing Tuesday, at which a magistrate judge ruled that insufficient evidence was presented to bind the case over to District Court.
Jodi L. Petty, 48, had all criminal charges dropped against her after Judge Daniel Dolan said the prosecutor did not present sufficient evidence that Petty was in fact an employee or agent of the jail when the alleged crimes occurred.
Petty was an employee of Summit Foods, a private company contracted by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office to provide food services to the county detention center. Her defense attorney, Josh Stanek, argued that she was an independent contractor working on behalf of Summit Foods at the jail, and therefore exempt from the charges she was facing under Idaho code.
According to state code, it is illegal for an employee or agent of a jail or prison to have sexual contact with a prisoner. Prosecutor Matt Fredback argued that the term “agent” is defined as someone who acts or works on behalf of a person or company, and that Petty was hired to perform services on behalf of the jail. Stanek argued that Petty was an agent of Summit Foods, working as an independent contractor for the jail and therefore not an employee of the jail or the Sheriff’s Office.
Petty was arrested on Feb. 2 after an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office revealed suspicious behavior with an inmate. According to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office, Petty was employed as a kitchen worker by Summit Food Services and worked in the kitchen at the county jail alongside inmates.
At the preliminary hearing Tuesday, the inmate with whom Petty allegedly had sexual relations testified that he began developing a relationship with her toward the end of November while he was housed at the jail waiting to be transported to a prison to serve his sentence. The inmate testified that the relationship developed into a sexual one after two instances when he and Petty were alone in the kitchen’s walk-in freezer—where there were no surveillance cameras—and kissed. The inmate testified that he and Petty had sexual contact four times in the freezer within a week time period.
Dolan stated that even though there was evidence established that Petty had sexual contact with an inmate, there was no evidence presented that she was an employee of the Blaine County Detention Center.