A woman is suing the Minnesota Department of Corrections and former corrections officer Randy A. Beehler for damages after Beehler allegedly traded lunch from McDonald's for sexual favors while transporting her as an inmate in September 2019.
The lawsuit, filed in January by the woman, alleges that the state, its Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell and Beehler violated the woman's constitutional rights and Minnesota law.
The lawsuit also argues the state was negligent in allowing a single male correctional officer to transport a female inmate alone and without direct supervision.
The woman "suffered severe emotional trauma and distress, shame, humiliation, embarrassment and invasion of privacy," states the complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court.
Corrections Department spokeswoman Sarah Fitzgerald said Friday that the department is not able to respond to pending litigation but stated in an e-mail that "we took immediate and decisive action in response to the report."
In a separate criminal case filed in October 2019, Beehler was charged with one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and one felony count of fourth-degree sexual conduct in Dakota County.
Beehler, now 54, lives in Foley, Minn. At the time he was charged, he had worked at the Corrections Department for 25 years and had most recently served as a transportation sergeant. Fitzgerald confirmed that Beehler is no longer employed.
On March 24, Beehler pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in a plea deal that dismissed the third-degree count.
The deal stipulates Beehler will agree to a 24-month sentence, stayed, and agree to be on probation for a period determined by the court. The agreement also stipulates jail time of 90 to 180 days as a condition of probation. Beehler's sentencing is set for June 9.
The criminal complaint states Beehler was transporting the woman from Olmsted County to the Hennepin County jail on Sept. 30, 2019. He told the woman he planned to stop for lunch and she indicated she would "do anything" for some food.
Beehler asked if that offer included moving to the front seat and "fooling around," the complaint states. He stopped at a McDonald's drive-through in Cannon Falls, ordered food and parked outside an abandoned business.
Beehler then uncuffed the woman and invited her to the front seat. While driving through Dakota County, Beehler engaged in sexual behavior, documents state.
Beehler also told the woman she would get in trouble if she told anyone. Later that day, she reported the incident to Hennepin officials.
The civil complaint states the woman "never consented to sexual contact but felt coerced." Under state law, inmates cannot legally give consent because of the uneven power dynamic between officers and offenders.
The woman wants compensatory damages in excess of $50,000, as well as punitive damages and attorney's fees.
Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299 • @bergjenny