SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (KUCW) – A former county sheriff in Utah and two members of his staff pleaded guilty to charges related to the mistreatment of inmates.
Former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen pleaded guilty to official misconduct in a Summit County court.
Two other former members of his staff, Benjamin Lail and Joshua Cox, also pleaded guilty to reduced charges.
Neither Jorgensen nor Lail will have to serve any jail time. But they were placed on probation, and both will lose their police certification. Jorgensen agreed to a plea and abeyance. It means if he stays out of trouble over the next six months, the case will disappear from his record.
Cox pleaded guilty to the most serious of charges, two felony counts of aggravated assault, as well as theft and transporting a weapon into a facility. He will be sentenced in November after a pre-sentence report is created. Two other sheriff’s deputies were also charged with misdemeanors, and their cases are pending in the Summit County justice court.
“We feel bad for what happened, and I’ve given a lot of my life to the prison system, and I feel like I’ve respected inmates,” said Jorgensen afterwards. “I’ve respected inmates, and that’s always been my motto, is to treat them with respect.”
Daggett County had a contract to house low-risk prison inmates from the Utah Department of Corrections. An investigation revealed inmates were being tased as part of a game conducted by Cox.
His attorney told the judge that Cox would offer the inmates soda if they could withstand being tased.
“Part of it is you get too close and say ‘Do you want to get tased? Sure, give a six pack of soda,'” said Loni Deland. “Like I said it was poor judgment. It was unprofessional.”
Jorgensen said he was unaware of what was going on in his jail, but said it was his responsibility. He said he was shocked just like the rest of the community upon learning what happened.
“Yes I did, and when I found out, I had a full investigation,” Jorgensen said.
The state removed the prison inmates from the Daggett County Jail and broke off their contract with the county. Jorgensen resigned during the course of the investigation.