A former Casper Re-Entry Center employee who is facing criminal charges for allegedly having sex with an inmate is challenging her case on constitutional grounds.
In a Wednesday hearing in Natrona County District Court, Andrea Morgan’s attorney argued the state statutes she was charged under violate her federal due process rights because they are overly broad. Morgan is charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault stemming from a romantic relationship she had with a former Re-Entry Center inmate.
Prosecutor Kevin Taheri responded by arguing the state has a compelling interest in preventing relationships between inmates and corrections employees. For one, such relationship could jeopardize the security of correctional institutions. Inmates could also be coerced into having sex with corrections personnel.
“The people involved are not equally situated consenting adults,” Taheri said.
Judge Daniel Forgey did not make a ruling on Morgan’s motion Wednesday, saying he would take the matter under advisement.
Morgan is accused of having sex with an unnamed inmate of the Casper Re-Entry Center while she worked there as a health services administrator. Court documents state that Morgan told investigators she had sexual contact with the man while he was an inmate at CRC and then had sex with him the night he was released. Because the man was still on probation at the time, their relationship remained illegal under state law.
The relationship was ostensibly consensual, according to court documents, but Taheri said Wednesday the imbalance of power between Morgan and her alleged victim made consent precarious.
Morgan’s attorney, Thomas Smith, argued that the United States Supreme Court considers sex between consenting adults a fundamental constitutional right. Fundamental rights can only be circumscribed by narrowly tailored law written to serve a compelling state interest.
Smith argued that because the law makes no allowances for married couples and does not consider the location of the alleged offense, the law is not narrowly tailored.
“This statute is way overly broad,” Smith said.
Morgan and the man are not married.
Taheri called the director of the Casper Re-Entry Center to testify on behalf of the prosecution. The director, Joshua Brown, testified that relationships between staff members and inmates could raise security concerns. Brown said a staff member who is in an intimate relationship with an inmate might smuggle contraband into the facility or tip inmates off to planned searches.
Brown was appointed director of the facility after Morgan left her position at the CRC, he said.
Taheri argued that sex between consenting adults was not a fundamental right protected by the U.S. Constitution. He said that even if it were, the state law is tailored as tightly as possible to protect the state’s interests.
Forgey spoke only briefly in saying he would consider the arguments before adjourning the court.