A former private prisoner transport officer accused by a St. Paul woman of raping her as he drove her from Texas to the Ramsey County jail has admitted to similar attacks involving three other female inmates.
Marquet D. Johnson, 44, of West Memphis, Ark., pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, N.M., to the assaults that occurred during long-distance transports over a four-month period in 2019.
"Every person has a basic right to dignity and respect," U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez said in a statement following Johnson's guilty plea. "And nobody, no matter the crime of which they are being accused, deserves to be raped. When jailers fail their duty to those in their charge, they will join them in custody."
A lawsuit was filed in April against Ramsey County and its Sheriff's Office, which contracted with Johnson's employer, Inmate Services Corp., alleging that he raped a 38-year-old woman while driving her from Texas back to Minnesota in June 2019. Lawyers for both sides are due back in court on May 16 to discuss the possibility of settling that case without a trial.
Johnson has not been charged in connection with the St. Paul woman's allegations, but the investigation in New Mexico alerted prosecutors "to more than a dozen other alleged victims of Mr. Johnson's conduct" across the country while he was employed by the now-defunct Inmate Services in 2019 and 2020, according to a filing in March in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.
According to the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota:
During a stop in Oklahoma, Johnson allowed her to use the bathroom. He walked her into the truck stop bathroom while she was handcuffed and forced a sex act. While in Iowa just shy of the Minnesota border, Johnson took the woman into a rest stop bathroom and forced her to have intercourse.
The woman's suit also names as defendants Johnson and Randy Cagle Jr., who owned Inmate Services Corp. It seeks $9 million in compensatory damages and another $4 million in punitive damages for what she contends was "cruel and unusual punishment" and other violations of her rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The first of the three rapes that Johnson admitted to in court this week occurred in July 2019. While driving a woman from Spencer, Ind., to San Marcos, Texas, he assaulted her in a bathroom at the headquarters of Inmate Services in West Memphis.
His next sexual assault occurred in August 2019 while driving an inmate from Baker County, Ore., to Warrensburg, Mo. While in Missouri, he assaulted the woman in the van parked outside a hotel.
The third assault happened in November 2019, while transporting an inmate from Santa Fe, N.M., to Delta County, Colo. Johnson pressed a gun against the woman's head and raped her in the van.
Johnson and prosecutors have agreed that a sentence of 27 to 30 years in prison "is the appropriate disposition in this case," the plea filing read. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.
In July, a second former Inmate Services driver was sentenced to nine years in prison for raping a Washington inmate at a Missouri rest stop while driving her to a Minnesota jail.
The prosecution said Rogeric Hankins, 37, picked up a pretrial inmate from an Olympia, Wash., jail March 31, 2020. Three days later, he stopped the van at a gas station in Joplin, Mo., and brought the victim to the women's bathroom. He then led her into the men's bathroom, ordered her into the stall farthest from the door and raped her.