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Former halfway house employee sentenced for coercion

Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A former employee at a corrections halfway house was sentenced Thursday to four months in prison for coercing an inmate after the woman threatened to speak of a sexual relationship between them.

Rusty Tillson, 28, pleaded guilty in July to felony coercion last November and December.

The state dropped three counts of sexual assault stemming from the law that forbids an employee of a prison facility from engaging in sexual relations, consensual or otherwise, with an inmate.

Prosecutors said Tillson and the inmate engaged in consensual sex. Tillson denies any relationship.

Tillson performed basic security checks for Gastineau Human Services, which operates a halfway house, for six months before he was fired. Tillson told the female inmate, who was serving time for felony theft, that she could be returned to prison and she could lose her child if she said they had sex, according to halfway house officials.

Defense Attorney Daniel Wayne said Tillson made threats because the woman was making threats of her own to spread the rumor of a relationship.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins said that although Tillson's reputation had suffered, and he can never again be employed by the criminal justice system, she needed to make an example for others in the same position of power. Community condemnation is of particular importance, Collins said.

''I would hope others in a similar situation would be deterred by the same kinds of concerns,'' she said.

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