A Minnesota corrections officer traded lunch from McDonald's for sexual favors from a female inmate he was transporting last month, according to charges filed Thursday.
Randy A. Beehler, 53, of Foley, Minn., was charged via warrant with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with the alleged assault. He turned himself in at the Dakota County jail Thursday morning and was released on $50,000 bail several hours later.
Under Minnesota law, inmates cannot legally give consent, largely due to the uneven power dynamic between officers and offenders.
"Consent by the individual is not a defense," said Kathy Keena, chief deputy of the Dakota County Attorney's Office. "Criminal activity of this nature is a significant breach of trust. I wish to commend the victim for the courage to report these allegations to law enforcement."
Beehler has worked in various capacities at the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC) for 25 years, most recently serving as a transportation sergeant. He is on paid leave pending an internal investigation.
According to the criminal complaint, while driving a female offender from Olmsted County to the Hennepin County jail on Sept. 30, Beehler told the woman he planned to stop for a bite to eat. She indicated that she would "do anything" for some food.
Beehler asked if that offer included moving to the front seat and "fooling around," court records show. He stopped at a McDonald's drive-through in Cannon Falls and ordered meals for them both before parking outside an abandoned business.
Beehler then uncuffed the woman and invited her to the front seat. While driving through Dakota County, he unzipped his pants and received oral sex, charges say.
He told the victim she would get in a lot of trouble if she told, and she told him she would keep quiet. Later that day, she reported the incident to Hennepin County officials.
Beehler initially denied any inappropriate contact, but authorities say he later admitted that the victim did perform sexual acts. Investigators found physical evidence disposed of at a nearby park that they are testing for semen.
His attorney, Tom Beito, accused the woman of lying. "What's in the complaint is a fabrication," Beito said. "We believe the truth will come out."
Beehler doesn't appear to have any criminal history beyond minor traffic infractions. He is listed as the part owner and manager of Security Specialists Inc., a Stillwater-based security management firm that oversees festivals, concerts and other large events.
Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell called the allegations "disgusting" and "absolutely contrary" to the core values of the agency.
"The conduct described in the criminal complaint is disturbing and does not reflect the professionalism of the more than 4,000 agency personnel who serve with integrity and honor," he said. "This is utterly unacceptable and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"Our immediate concern is for the victim of this crime," he said.
The incident comes less than six months after officer Jeffrey C. Anderson was charged with inappropriate sexual conduct with an inmate at the Shakopee women's prison. A prisoner accused Anderson of hounding her for sexual favors, once shining a flashlight in her room and demanding that she show her breasts, court records say.
Three other officers were fired in May for failing to report their knowledge of the unlawful sexual encounters and, in some cases, for retaliatory actions against complainants. One of the dismissed officers, Brent Lake, has since returned to work after more than five months on paid leave.
Schnell has vowed to hold employees accountable for inappropriate relationships with those in their custody. His administration is exploring implementing officer body cameras as an additional tool to protect staff and inmates.