FAIRVIEW, Okla. — A former sheriff in western Oklahoma used his influence over female jail inmates and drug court defendants to demand sex with them, a prosecutor said Tuesday as the ex-lawman's trial began. The defense said he never forced anyone to have sex.
Mike Burgess, who resigned as Custer County sheriff in April, has pleaded not guilty to 36 charges of rape, rape by instrumentation, kidnapping, sexual battery and oral sodomy. His attorney said the accusers are either lying or the sex was consensual.
Prosecutor Jim Swartz said six former jail inmates and drug court defendants will testify against Burgess, who faces up to 470 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Swartz said that in one case Burgess asked a drug court defendant to meet him at a hotel in Oklahoma City. Swartz said she feared this would violate travel restrictions imposed by the court, but she agreed to it after Burgess told her: "I'm the sheriff. I'll take care of that."
Swartz said Burgess, 56, used his position to find out where drug court defendants lived. One evening, Burgess showed up at an offender's hotel room, knocked on the door, and when she answered he said, "Booty call," before entering the room and having sex with her, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Steve Huddleston said in his opening statement that Burgess never forced anyone to have sex.
"This is a lie," Huddleston said. "Never did happen."
A former Custer County inmate testified Tuesday that she performed oral sex on Burgess in November 2006 after he promised to make her a trustee and possibly get her out of jail early.
On cross-examination, the woman testified to having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and to having hallucinated because of a crack cocaine habit.
The defense also questioned her about being a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Burgess. Huddleston said four of the six women who have made allegations are plaintiffs in the suit and stand to benefit financially if he is convicted.
Huddleston also said five of the women are convicted felons.
In other testimony, a female former sheriff's deputy testified that Burgess groped her several times when she worked for him.
Burgess was a member of a drug court panel that decided which offenders were allowed into a rehabilitation program and which were sent to prison.
Several female offenders testified at a preliminary hearing they feared they would be sent to prison if they did not provide sexual favors to Burgess. One woman testified she and Burgess had sex two to three times a week over a 14-month period.
Under state law, a prisoner cannot legally consent to sexual relations with a jailer or anyone else who controls the conditions of the prisoner's confinement. Defense attorneys contend that drug court defendants could consent to sex with Burgess because they were controlled not by him but by a judge.
The evidence against Burgess surfaced in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 former jail inmates alleging sheriff's employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts.
Burgess, who is married, is free on $50,000 bail.
The trial was moved to Major County from Custer County because of intense media coverage. Fairview is 73 miles from the Custer County seat of Arapaho and 120 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.