A Bovey, Minn., man working for a private prisoner transport agency has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a female prisoner during her multiday, cross-country extradition last year.
James Baldinger, 51, allegedly brandished a shotgun during the assaults, according to FBI agents.
A federal grand jury in New Mexico returned an indictment Thursday on charges of committing civil rights violations that resulted in bodily injury and involved the use of a deadly weapon. Baldinger is also being charged with possessing a firearm in furtherance of the crimes, which carries the potential for a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
Baldinger worked as a transport officer for Prisoner Transportation Services (PTS) of America, which bills itself as the country’s largest private extradition service.
PTS of America and an attorney for Baldinger did not return calls for comment. Calls Friday to a number associated with Baldinger’s home address were unanswered.
The charges stem from the transport of a female prisoner from July 7 to July 11, 2017. According to court documents, another officer drove the van from Kentucky to New Mexico while Baldinger used an access window to communicate with and fondle the woman, who was in restraints. The affidavit said Baldinger told her, “This can either be a happy place ride for you or a bad place ride for you.”
The FBI said the woman reported the assaults to an intake nurse at the Albuquerque, N.M., detention center. She also underwent an exam that showed injuries consistent with sexual assault.