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Missouri sheriff pleads guilty to harassment charge

The sheriff of Osage County recently entered a plea of guilty to a single count of harassment to avoid a trial on more serious charges that included third-degree assault, stalking, tampering with a motor vehicle and sexual misconduct. When accepting his plea, the judge ordered that the sheriff complete two years of probation, undergo periodic alcohol and drug evaluations, receive counseling for sexual harassment, have no contact with those he victimized and not break any laws.

Because it was the sheriff facing charges, a special prosecutor from Phelps County was appointed by the Maries and Osage County courts. All of the charges filed against the sheriff stemmed from incidents that allegedly occurred between October of 2012 and June 2013.

One of the sheriff’s former co-workers complained that on separate incidents of June 24 and 26 of last year, he sexually harassed and stalked her. He reportedly stuck a flashlight between her legs on one occasion. The other incident involved him demanding over and over to know of her whereabouts and stealing her fiance’s ATV.

While there is no way to know his former co-worker’s intentions, his guilty plea in criminal court may bolster any civil litigation that she has filed or intends to file in the matter. Under Missouri law, convictions or guilty pleas to criminal charges aren’t necessary to successfully litigate civil lawsuits filed by plaintiffs who have been harassed in the workplace. However, admissions of guilt and any courtroom testimony about the incidents can be used to assemble a sturdy case against the supervisor or co-worker who is subjecting an employee to unwelcome sexual advances or creating a hostile working environment.

Source: KRCG, "Osage County Sheriff pleads guilty, gets probation," Dan Claxton, July 1, 2014.

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