Sheriff arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting developmentally delayed inmate at his home

Posted at 10:14 AM, Aug 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 01:29:57-04

LOGAN COUNTY, Colo. -- An elected sheriff in Colorado is behind bars on charges of sexually assaulting a prisoner in custody, court records show.

Police in Colorado arrested Sedgwick County Sheriff Thomas J. Hanna following a joint investigation into alleged wrongdoing after Hanna took a prisoner in his custody to his home.

Hanna made his first court appearance on Wednesday wearing an orange jump suit normally reserved for the inmates he puts behind bars.

Even though a judge has issued a gag order in the case, an affidavit obtained by Denver7 on Wednesday revealed the details behind the charges.

A Sedwick County Sheriff's deputy reported concern after seeing Hanna take a female inmate to the Sheriff's home in his personal vehicle. The deputy did some investigating and contacted the District Attorney's Office, which then turned to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators spoke with the prisoner, who disclosed she has disabilities that have followed her throughout her life. She said she felt Sheriff Hanna took advantage of those disabilities.

The inmate -- who will remain nameless -- said Hanna removed her handcuffs in his living room and asked her "if she wanted to make $60."

The inmate's testimony then explained Hanna engaged in sexual acts for roughly five minutes, despite the inmate's protest.

In her interview, the inmate became emotional, saying she felt raped.

Her testimony led investigators to search Hanna's house, finding several items which investigators are counting as evidence. Investigators said they found similarly colored boxer shorts compared to the prisoner's story, as well as feminine hygiene products Hanna allegedly gave the inmate as she had been on her period at the time.

Soon after, investigators interviewed Hanna, who said she wanted to talk to him in private about an investigation. He denied the sexual assault and said he made a "poor decision." He told investigators he works in a small town and was trying to avoid people seeing her talk to him about sensitive information.

In his interview, he said he gave the inmate $20 after transferring her to another jail facility simply out of generosity.

Together with evidence from both interviews and a review of logs from the jail -- including video -- authorities decided to arrest and book Hanna on charges of sexually violating the inmate.

Originally, Hanna had been kept in the Logan County Jail, however he has since been moved to the Weld County Jail due to concerns for his safety, as many suspects Hanna's force arrested are in the Logan County facility.

"I have the utmost confidence in the other sheriffs in my district, I don't want this to reflect poorly upon all rural sheriffs, certainly not the ones in my district," said 13th Judicial District Attorney Brittny Lewton, which includes Sedgwick County. "I have seven counties and six other sheriffs and I believe completely in their work and in their agencies."

Lewton asked the judge to appoint a special prosecutor to take on this case to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. The judge allowed the appointment of the 18th Judicial District, the same District Attorney's Office that prosecuted the Aurora Theater shooter. Assistant D.A. Mark Hurlbert asked the judge to hold Hanna on a $500,000 bond.

"I did choose to relinquish the case or ask for the special prosecution by the 18th, not because I didn't think I could handle the case or because the rural DAs can't handle these types of cases, but because I really felt that it was best for both, the defendant and the public, that a completely unbiased person or agencies be the one that handles it," said Lewton.

In court on Wednesday, the judge set Hanna's bond at $250,000. He was also notified of a protection order that requires him to stay away from the victim and witnesses in the case. He must also stay more than 100 yards away from the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

If he bonds out of jail, he'll be required to wear GPS.

Hanna spoke in court in an effort to help limit the amount of his bond.

"Any small amount of money that I have is currently tied up in a divorce, I don't have access to much for bond," said Hanna. "I certainly haven't been a menace to the community. When I was arrested, I was arrested in uniform, in full duty gear and went willingly and peacefully, even though I contest every single one of the charges."

Lewton also told Denver7 that she asked for a special prosecutor so that she could focus on other cases that Hanna was previously involved in as an arresting Sheriff or a witness.

"It's too early to tell, but I certainly will be looking into those," said Lewton. "There's nothing that's jumped out at me that has said, 'I need to do something with those.'"

State law gives the power of acting Sheriff to the county Coroner, at least until a new Sheriff is elected or appointed by the county commissioners.

Hanna faces charges of sexual assault of an at-risk adult -- a felony crime. He also faces felony charges of sexual conduct in an correctional institute. That charge was downgraded from felony sexual penetration by an official while in custody -- one of four arresting charges.

Hanna also faces misdemeanor charges of prostitution-soliciting and first-degree official misconduct.

Convictions on both felony charges could see Hanna in prison for a hefty amount of time. On the charge of sexual conduct in a correctional institute, he could face between 30 months and eight years in prison. He could face eight to 24 years in prison with the potential for lifetime parole supervision if found guilty of sexual assault against an at-risk person.

Hanna's constituents elected him in November of 2014, when he received 728 votes. 


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