Editor’s Note: Due to the graphic nature of this story, it may not be suitable for all readers.
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Update: Jailer charged for sex with inmates – Update on January 29, 2019
MOUNT VERNON — Knox County Sheriff David Shaffer confirmed the identity of a former jailer now the focus of an investigation by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation into allegations that he engaged in oral sex with a jail inmate.
Shaffer said Jason Hess is the subject the investigation by BCI into allegations of sexual misconduct while on duty at the jail. The investigation will look at the behavior that “could potentially be criminal in nature,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said that five women have brought allegations against Hess. One woman, a former inmate, stated that she performed oral sex on Hess while he was on duty at the jail in exchange for a candy bar. A second inmate stated they witnessed the alleged act.
Further allegations state that Hess was observed by inmates masturbating and exposed himself to an inmate at the visitation window. Hess has further been accused of exchanging phone numbers with an inmate in hopes she would be “hooking up” with him after her release, and of contacting a female former inmate on the phone while off-duty. In the latter case, Hess allegedly used technology to hide or scramble his actual phone number.
The allegations are part of a pre-disciplinary hearing notice included in Hess’s personnel file, obtained by the News in a public records request.
Shaffer said the investigation began April 18 after a former inmate filed a complaint. The inmate said that Hess gave her his phone number and exposed himself to her.
Other women were identified by deputies during a follow-up investigation, Shaffer said, which led to the further allegations. The date in which the alleged oral sex occurred is not known, Shaffer said.
Shaffer said Hess finished his regular shift April 18 and was reassigned on his next scheduled day of work, April 22. Hess was placed on suspension April 23, Shaffer said, and was present for an investigatory meeting April 24. The matter was scheduled for a pre-disciplinary hearing April 30. During the pre-disciplinary hearing, Hess resigned, Shaffer said.
Male jailers often come into contact with female inmates while performing general duties, Shaffer said. There are currently four female jailers, and there are times when no female jailers are on duty. Shaffer said his office sometimes has to pull female road deputies into the jail to do body searches of female inmates.
The jail is monitored by video surveillance, Shaffer said, and there are gaps in the coverage of the cameras. Some areas, such as showers, are restricted from video surveillance.
Shaffer said there is “concrete evidence” that Hess exchanged numbers with a female inmate. Shaffer called the oral sex accusation “improbable” due to the “chaotic nature of day shift in general.”
“There’s so much activity going on that it would seem highly unlikely for something like that to occur,” Shaffer said. “But, when you have obviously serious allegations, they have to be followed up on.”
Past discipline against Hess included “counseling” notations for failing to attend training sessions.
Hess’s resignation is effective May 17. Shaffer said Hess may use accumulated time to cover the hours until the final date.
Hess completed his peace officer training in 2010. He worked for Knox County Juvenile Probation and as an auxiliary officer at Fredericktown Police Department before being hired on at the jail, according to his personnel file.
Hess, who worked the day shift, was hired as a jailer in 2011. He was also on the sheriff’s office tactical team and completed training for water patrol in 2013.
Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Chip McConville declined to comment on the matter.
It is unknown how long it will take BCI to conclude its investigation.