A federal judge has ordered the dismissal of a sexual misconduct charge against a former employee of a halfway house who was accused of having an affair with an inmate and becoming pregnant.

In a ruling issued last Friday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball said federal prosecutors had insufficient evidence to show that Ashley Ford committed sexual misconduct when she had sexual relations with an inmate, because the sexual relations took place outside of the halfway house and while Ford was off duty.

According to court documents, Ford was hired at the Cornell Community Corrections Center in Salt Lake City as a staff monitor in November 2006. The facility houses inmates who can leave the facility during the day to work and then return in the evening to sleep. About a month before she was hired, Ford met inmate Nathan Coccimiglio at a party and was later put in a supervisory position over Coccimiglio.

Records also state that while working at the center, Ford and Coccimiglio became sexually involved, but that the couple met at Ford's apartment while Coccimiglio was on work release and she was off duty. The record also states Ford became pregnant at the time. Ford argued that she did not have custodial, supervisory or disciplinary authority over Coccimiglio when they were engaged in intimate relations.

"There is no evidence that Ms. Ford's conduct occurred 'in' the Cornell facility," Kimball wrote. While the court recognized that there were a variety of reasons to forbid a corrections officer from engaging in sexual conduct with someone in custody, the federal law simply does not prohibit the conduct which took place in Ford's apartment, Kimball added.

Ford is one of three employees at the center who have been charged in the past year with misconduct.

Two male employees, William Lynn Appawora and Larry Lee Jensen, were both charged with misconduct and sentenced to terms in federal prison. Both men admitted to altering urine samples for drug tests for inmates at the 99-bed facility. Jensen admitted to using his own urine for an inmate's test in exchange for $40. He would also provide advance notice of drug tests and outside visits in exchange for sexual favors from inmates.

Appawora was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Jensen was sentenced to 27 months, and an appeal to that term was denied.


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