A former prison guard at a women's prison in southeast Georgia who identifies as a Christian pastor has been accused of abusing his power over the inmates. Investigators claimed that he forced them to have sex with him.
According to Kate Brumback of the Associated Press, an investigator for the Georgia Department of Corrections filed a warrant application against Edgar Daniel Johnson. The sworn statements in the warrant claimed that he groped and fondled women in the prison, forcing some of them into sexual activities.
"Mr. Johnson vehemently denies the allegations, and we look forward to having the opportunity to confront these charges in court," Johnson's attorney Kendall Gross said.
Gross told the Associated Press that his client looks forward to defending himself against the criminal charges.
The Associated Press reported that more than a dozen women claimed that Johnson victimized them at Emanuel Women's Facility in Swainsboro. One of them said that 48-year-old Johnson was a pastor who read passages from the Bible.
"Johnson initially seemed like someone who cared, a comforting thing in a scary place, said one woman who was 25 and had never been in prison when she landed at Emanuel on charges related to an injury her son suffered while with her ex when the boy was supposed to be in her custody," Brumback wrote.
The 25-year-old woman also told the Associated Press that as a captain in the system, Johnson could help her get to a transitional center closer to her children.
"He got a feel for your story to see what angle he could come at you with," she said.
The unidentified woman told the Associated Press that her work detail involved cleaning his office. However, Johnson would call her as many as five or six times a day to keep her there while making crude sexual comments.
"You kind of just blocked it out, thinking: If I can just get out of his office without anything happening, I'll be fine," she said. "I guess after a while you just learn to deal with it."
The woman added that the comments and unwanted touching continued for 18 months. She stated to the Associated Press that Johnson forced her to have sex with him five or six times, threatening to stop her transfer to a transitional center near her family in Atlanta if she failed to comply.
"She was afraid of retaliation if she complained because he'd said repeatedly that he basically ran the place," Brumback wrote, noting that the woman described the events as an open secret.
According to the Associated Press, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, which called for prisons across the United States to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on prison rape. Even consensual sex between inmates and prison employees is illegal under the law.
"We take very seriously allegations of this nature, which cause unjust risk and harm to the individuals we supervise as well as the safe operation of our facilities," Lisa Rodriguez-Presley, spokeswoman of the Georgia Department of Corrections, wrote in an email.
Presley told the Associated Press that the Georgia Department of Corrections expects to be fully compliant with the law by August 2016. In the meantime, the Associated Press reported that four of the women are now out of jail but still have trouble trusting people, especially men.
"We did a crime and we were sentenced, but nowhere did it say that we had to be his sex slaves," a woman said. "He took something from us that we can never get back."
As for Johnson, the Associated Press reported that he was fired in April and arrested in May on charges related to the investigation. He is currently free on bond.
"It became quickly apparent the allegations were most likely true," inspector Clay Nix of the Department of Corrections' office of professional standards said.