A former Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy accused of unlawfully having sex with two jail inmates while working as a guard in Richmond pleaded not guilty to four felonies, according to a district attorney's spokesman.
Patrick Morseman, 27, was charged with four felony counts of sexual activity with a confined consenting adult for allegedly having sex with two inmates at the West County Detention Facility on March 31.
However, an attorney for the two victims has disputed that the sex was consensual, saying that Morseman assaulted the two inmates.
Morseman pleaded not guilty during a hearing in Richmond, Contra Costa County district attorney's spokesman Scott Alonso said.
All sexual relations and sexual contact between prison staff and inmates violate federal law, according to the Department of Justice.
Various abuse cases investigated by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General showed that guards often took advantage of vulnerable inmates to have sex with them.
Prosecutors had sought to raise his bail to $200,000 but it remains at $100,000.
Morseman bailed out shortly after he was arrested on April 4. The district attorney's office filed charges on Thursday. If convicted, Morseman could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
In announcing his arrest last month, sheriff's officials said that the investigation lasted less than a day before Morseman's arrest.
But even then the sheriff's office described the sex as consensual, which Neama Rahmani, an attorney for the women, continues to say is inaccurate.
Rahmani said that he has not seen evidence in the case yet, but said he was disappointed in the district attorney's charging decision.
"Our position remains that this was a non-consensual sexual encounter," Rahmani said.
Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee declined to elaborate on the sheriff's office's description of the sex as consensual, referring questions to the district attorney's office.
Alonso said that after reviewing the evidence, prosecutors charged Morseman with the offense that they thought they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt and pointed out that consent is not a defense for the charges against Morseman.
"Mr. Morseman will probably be prohibited at least in California from working for any law enforcement agency if the charges are proven," Alonso said. "It's a very serious offense, it's certainly an imbalance of power."
Morseman's next court date is a setting for June 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Richmond.