Probation Officer Convicted of Carnal Knowledge of Prisoners
STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) -
A probation officer accused of having sex with gang members on probation entered an Alford plea in Staunton Circuit Court Monday. But despite the plea deal, she still says she's innocent.
As part of the deal, the charges against 29-year-old Meaghan Fields for bribery of a public official and possession of drugs with intent to distribute were dropped, but she's now convicted on two counts of carnal knowledge of a prisoner for having sex with two men, who are brothers.
Fields holds a master's degree and was a specialist in the gang division. But then in 2011, the assistant attorney general said she began discussing marital problems with two of her probationers. That eventually led to a sexual relationship with the men and in exchange for that, she provided them with clean urine for drug tests and other unspecified favors.
Field's lawyer says she wants to put all this behind her and not risk a harsher punishment by going through a trial. From here, a pre-sentencing report will be prepared.
This summer, a judge will hear all the information and then hand down the punishment. She will not be able to serve in a state agency for a decade, and the maximum sentence for her charges is 10 years.
Office of Attorney General Mark Herring Press Release
RICHMOND - Today, Attorney General Mark Herring announced that Meaghan Marie Fields of Buena Vista, a former probation officer with the Virginia Department of Corrections, entered Alford pleas of guilty to felony charges of abusing her position to engage in sexual contact with multiple persons under supervision. The Hon. Charles L. Ricketts III, accepted the guilty pleas today shortly after 1:30 p.m. in the City of Staunton Circuit Court. Pursuant to a written plea agreement, Judge Rickets will impose a 10 year ban on Fields' ability to seek employment with any state, local or federal agency and will sentence her at a later date, with the possibility of a maximum sentence of 10 years of active incarceration.
"There is no place in the Commonwealth of Virginia for such a flagrant and inappropriate abuse of the public trust as was shown in this case," said Attorney General Herring. "As Attorney General, I will not tolerate actions by those in positions of power which would erode the public's confidence in our criminal justice system and our government as a whole. I sincerely appreciate the hard work and cooperation of the numerous agencies who worked to bring this case to a successful conclusion."
This successful prosecution is the result of a lengthy investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General working in conjunction with the Augusta County Sheriff's Department, the Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney's Office, the Virginia State Police, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Virginia Department of Corrections, among others.
From 2010 until the fall of 2012, Fields served as a probation officer in Staunton with the Virginia Department of Corrections. Fields served as the gang specialist for the area and was in charge of supervising dozens of convicted gang members on probation. On multiple occasions during an 18 month period from 2011 to 2012, Fields used her position of official authority to engage in sexual contact with multiple gang members who were on probation, with encounters occurring both during and after business hours. After the Staunton Police Department observed Fields in her car with a probationer after business hours, she was allowed to resign from the Virginia Department of Corrections before being indicted by the Shenandoah Valley Multi-Jurisdiction Grand Jury on September 3, 2013 following a lengthy investigation.
An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt. Rather, it is an admission by the defendant that the Commonwealth has enough evidence to convince a judge or jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Phil Figura, a Gang Prosecutor assigned to Attorney General Herring's Special Prosecutions and Organized Crime Section.
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