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St. Louis jail guard accused of sex with inmate

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ST. LOUIS  •  The fate of an ex-St. Louis jail guard accused of pressuring a female inmate into sex inside the justice center in 2009 will be in the hands of a jury today.

Tony West, 36, of the 5300 block of St. Louis Avenue, went on trial Tuesday on a charge of sexual contact with a prisoner, a felony.

The woman, 29, was jailed in St. Louis on a bad check charge on Jan. 9, 2009. She testified that she and West had sex in a second-floor janitor’s closet after he told her he could make her charges go away.

“I was scared,” the woman testified. “I did everything he asked me to.”

The woman said West then locked her in the closet for several minutes before bringing her back to a cell.

The woman reported the incident to Cape Girardeau authorities the same day she was transferred to a jail there in a different case.

Cape Girardeau Detective Debbie Oliver took the woman’s complaint and testified Wednesday that, based on her interview with the woman, the sex between West and the woman was consensual. “It was not a rape,” Oliver said.

In March 2011, West pleaded guilty to a charge of sexual contact with a prisoner in the case in exchange for a sentence of three years’ probation. But West later withdrew that plea, saying prosecutors led him to believe he wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender.

Christopher Hatcher, a former jail supervisor, testified Wednesday that West confided in him that the woman was willing to do whatever sex acts he wanted. Hatcher said he told West, “As far as I’m concerned, you’ve had your fun, so you need to let this go.”

Hatcher said he didn’t discipline West because he thought it wouldn’t go any further. “It didn’t seem like a very big deal,” he said.

Hatcher said he asked West about a stretch of time West and the woman were missing on Jan. 9. West told him he had just let the woman use the phone, which was against policy. Hatcher said he let that slide.

“Writing people for some of the small stuff in that facility will basically get your head cracked,” he said.

Hatcher said he was fired in 2010 for failing to report West and lying to cover up for him. He said he later returned to work as a low-level guard but left after six months because his co-workers saw him as a snitch and no longer respected him as they had when he outranked them.

The woman acknowledged in court that she had exposed her breasts to jail guards through a holding cell window before the alleged sex in the janitor’s closet. She said had she never met West before that day.

The woman, from St. Louis, did not graduate from high school and can’t read or write. The Post-Dispatch does not identify victims in sex crime cases.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalie Warner told jurors West is linked to the crime by DNA from semen on rubber gloves discarded in the closet.

Kyra Groeblinghoff, a DNA specialist who tested the gloves, testified Wednesday that one of the gloves had DNA for several people: West, his accuser and at least four others. Groeblinghoff said tests could not determine if the source of DNA was semen or some other bodily fluid.

West’s attorney, John Washington, denied that there was semen on the gloves, telling jurors that “no crime occurred.”

West did not testify.

Both sides rested their cases Wednesday. Closing arguments and jury deliberations are set for today.

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Joel Currier is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter here: @joelcurrier.

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