Judge rejects prior court-indicated plea for ex-Kern detentions deputy who had sex with inmates, sentences him to jail

Crime Watch

Prosecutors had sought two years in prison for Brandon Lawrence.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — During his brief employment as a Kern County detentions deputy, Brandon Lawrence preyed on the women housed at Lerdo Jail.

He propositioned multiple inmates, following them into closets or leading them into offices for sexual encounters. He created a fake Facebook account to send incarcerated women messages, and used a law enforcement database to look them up without a valid reason.

Lawrence, 21 at the time, claimed the encounters were consensual. At least some of the women disagreed, describing their humiliation and anger to investigators.

On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge rejected an earlier court-indicated plea that would have resulted in no time in custody and sentenced Lawrence to 180 days in jail, plus two years’ probation. Lawrence also must undergo psychiatric counseling.

The District Attorney’s office had sought a two-year prison term. Prosecutor Ken Russell objected to the sentence Tuesday. Even though it included jail time, it was still below what the DA’s office was seeking.

Lawrence pleaded no contest in October to every charge against him — three counts of sexual activity with an inmate and one count of attempted sexual activity with an inmate — in what’s known as an “open plea.”

Judge Eric Bradshaw initially indicated he would not impose any time in custody but spent a week reconsidering his position after prosecutors noted the imbalance of power between Lawrence and the women of whom he took advantage.

Bradshaw noted that discrepancy before sentencing, explaining his reasoning for adjusting the sentence. But the judge said sending Lawrence to prison wasn’t appropriate because he had no prior criminal record.

Bradshaw said he found it suitable Lawrence would serve time in the same facility where he previously abused his authority.

Lawrence, given an opportunity to withdraw his plea, accepted the jail term. He was ordered to turn himself in after the hearing.

An investigation began Feb. 3 after a woman reported her cellmate was having sex with a detentions deputy.

It is illegal under state law for an officer working in a detention facility to engage in a sex act with an inmate, no matter the circumstance.

Detectives interviewed multiple inmates and gathered evidence including surveillance footage and jail records.

In one piece of footage, Lawrence and an inmate entered a storage closet together and stayed inside several minutes, according to court documents. There was no camera inside the closet.

One inmate cried as she described an encounter with Lawrence inside a closet after he told her to put away a mop bucket, the documents said. She said he removed her face mask and kissed her then initiated a sex act.

The woman told detectives she felt she had no choice but to comply. She said she was disgusted by what happened.

Another inmate told investigators Lawrence made her follow him inside a janitor’s closet to dump dirty water. Once inside, he grabbed her and asked if she wanted to “link up,” the court filings said. She told him no and he pulled her closer before letting her go.

The woman told detectives she wanted to hit Lawrence but was afraid of the repercussions.

Lawrence at first denied the accusations but later admitted to the encounters, in part blaming low staffing levels at the jail. He told detectives the encounters never would have happened if he’d been assigned a partner.

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