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Supervising probation officer accused in juvenile hall sex scandal

Supervising probation officer accused in juvenile hall sex scandal

By David Gotfredson

OTAY MESA, Calif. (CBS 8) - A female, supervising county probation officer is no longer with the department after allegations surfaced that she repeatedly molested a 17-year-old, male detainee inside the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility in Otay Mesa.

Court records obtained by News 8 not only allege sexual abuse by the former probation officer, but also that the officer's relationship with the teenager continued after he was released from juvenile hall.

The sexual abuse allegedly started inside the East Mesa juvenile facility between April and September 2009, according to court records.

A declaration filed in Chula Vista superior court on June 8, 2010, by an attorney representing the teenager alleged Officer Carlen Sexton, then age 35, repeatedly molested the 17-year-old detainee both during his incarceration in 2009 and after he was released.

"Officer Carlen Sexton removed (the boy) from his holding cell at the juvenile hall facility on multiple occasions and engaged in inappropriate and unlawful sexual acts," the declaration said.

"Sexton continued sexual contact with (the boy) after his release from juvenile hall and continuously and consistently and repeatedly engaged in consensual sex acts," according to the declaration.

An alarming study released last year showed 10 percent of boys in juvenile halls nationwide reported sexual misconduct by staff members.

U.S. Department of Justice statistician Allen Beck conducted the survey and authored the report, Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported by Youth (2008-09).

"Staff sexual misconduct is almost always between boys and female staff," Beck said in a telephone interview from Washington, DC. "Essentially, what is occurring is relationships emerge in the course of time working with the youth on a daily basis. The longer that the youth has been there, the more likely they are to report staff sexual misconduct."

In October 2009, the San Diego County Probation Department and the Chula Vista Police Department launched investigations into the sexual abuse allegations at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility, records show.

Two months later, the probation officer in question, Carlen Sexton, filed for divorce from her husband and quit her job after working for the county since 1997.

In a March 2010 letter written by the teenager and filed in the former probation officer's divorce file, he addressed the allegations of sexual abuse.

In the letter, the teenager admitted that on his 18th birthday he was interviewed by Cesar Escuro, a supervising probation officer investigating the case. The boy wrote, "I told him that Supervisor Sexton and I were in a relationship and that we loved each other. I further stated to him we had sex on three occasions."

But in the same letter the boy claims it was all a lie, fabricated because he believed he would be given certain privileges if he cooperated with the investigation. According to the letter, the teenager also told another investigator, Chula Vista Police Detective Ruth Hinsman, that his statements to Probation Officer Escuro were false.

Sources tell News 8, because the boy refused to cooperate with the investigation and denied the allegations of sexual abuse, no criminal charges were ever filed against Officer Sexton.

In her divorce records, Sexton claims she resigned because of stress related issues.

"It's not just the age difference that's worrisome. It's the power relationship that's worrisome," said Robert Fellmeth, an attorney with the Children's Advocacy Institute at USD and a former prosecutor.

"These are difficult cases for the District Attorney to prosecute because you have complaining witnesses who roll over on you, as it happening here; who are denying accusations previously made," Fellmeth said.

Once the boy in question turned age 18, court records show he also served time in adult jail after pleading guilty in a domestic violence case to assaulting the very same probation officer who was accused of molesting him in juvenile hall.

News 8 attempted to contact the teenager, who is now age 19, at his home he shares with his father in Elfin Forest but nobody answered the door.

As a result of his assault conviction, records show he is currently court ordered to stay away from the former probation officer. But there apparently is no requirement that she stay away from him.

Last week, News 8 recorded video showing Carlen Sexton pulling into the driveway of the teen's home.

Sexton's attorney faxed News a statement saying the sexual abuse allegations are false and they are denied.

The county-run East Mesa juvenile hall opened in 2004 with state of the art surveillance and security technology.

Insiders tell News 8, staff members are required to radio a central command center when walking through the facility with juvenile inmates. Surveillance cameras throughout the facility feed images to monitors inside central command.

"You have to watch those video cameras and you have to monitor them," said Beck, the U.S. Department of Justice statistician. "When we look at the array of incidents that occur, we're finding those incidents taking place even in places with surveillance."

Beck said, in any juvenile facility there are always some places without surveillance cameras.

"In closets, in locked offices, in kitchen areas, sometimes in classrooms; so, staff sexual abuse is much more likely to occur in those common areas than in a youth's room," Beck said.

County Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins declined to be interviewed on camera or answer questions about the alleged sexual abuse allegations at the East Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility.

In a written statement, Jenkins said:

"Providing a safe environment for the juveniles in our care is one of the top priorities of our Probation Department. Our staff receives extensive training on how to appropriately and positively interact with the juveniles in our facilities and programs. The juveniles are also advised of their rights on a daily basis. We take any allegation of abuse or other inappropriate conduct very seriously, and any allegation is investigated internally as well as reported to outside law enforcement and referred to Child Protective Services. The Probation Department is committed to providing positive alternatives to juveniles and adults under our supervision while maintaining the safety of our community."

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