Probation officer accused of sexual relationship with offender
An Alaska probation officer who has worked for the Department of Corrections for more than a decade is facing felony charges, accused of having a sexual relationship with a man under DOC supervision.
Shamika Lawrence, 39, faces counts of third-degree sexual assault, tampering with physical evidence and coercion, all of which are class C felonies.
An indictment filed by Assistant Attorney General John Darnall with the Office of Special Prosecutions offers limited details but provides a time period for the conduct of Oct. 5, 2017, through June 1 of this year.
The charges accuse Lawrence of engaging in sexual penetration with a person identified only by their initials, "a person who the offender knew was committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections to serve a term of imprisonment or period of temporary commitment."
DOC spokesperson Megan Edge said the victim in the case is a sentenced offender who is serving his time on an electronic monitor.
Edge wrote in an email that the indictment is the product of an investigation by the department's Professional Conduct Unit, which was given broader investigation authority from the Department of Public Safety over the summer.
"Even if the relationship is consensual, the person cannot give consent because of that relationship," explained PCU investigator Glen Klinkhart. "And that's important because it's power and control and it's a sense where you've got somebody who has a lot more power and control over you and a person may not feel like they can say no, so this is why the law is the way it is."
Implemented by DOC Commissioner Dean Williams, the PCU remains one of the transformations within DOC he says he's most proud of during his two years and 10 months on the job.
"I'm deeply proud of what this unit is about, what it's become, the importance of it," he said.
With looming uncertainty as to whether he'll be retained by the new administration, Williams said he hopes the unit will continue to exist either way.
"There's several things why this unit is so critically important for where the department has been and I hope where the department goes, with or without me, and it's really about standing up professionalism in the department, fact-finding, a commitment to truth — no matter what the truth might hold — because you can't fix what you don't know what's wrong. I think it's important for transforming the department," he said.
Klinkhart said the investigation into Lawrence began in May and concluded with her indictment by a grand jury last week.
In an email, prosecutor Darnall declined to discuss the details of the case, citing professional rules of conduct for attorneys that limit what they can say about open cases outside of the courtroom:
"I cannot comment on this matter beyond saying that this case was investigated by the Alaska State Troopers and Criminal Investigators with the Professional Conduct Unit of the Dept. of Corrections because of my ethical obligations under our Alaska rules of professional conduct."
Darnall did say Lawrence's presumptive sentencing range is two to 12 years for the sexual assault charges and zero to two years for the tampering and coercion counts.
"The above presumptive ranges are based on the nature of the charges and the lack of the defendant's prior criminal history," he explained.
Lawrence has been summoned to appear in court for an arraignment Tuesday. She is currently on paid administrative leave, according to Edge.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.