Prison transport officer pleads guilty to raping pretrial detainees in New Mexico

A former private prisoner transport officer in New Mexico pleaded guilty Monday to sexually assaulting three female pretrial detainees, authorities said.

Marquet Johnson, 44, raped two of the women and forced another to perform oral sex during prisoner transports in 2019, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, followed by up to five years of supervised release. He also must pay the victims damages.

“Nobody, no matter the crime of which they are being accused, deserves to be raped,” Alexander M.M. Uballez, the U.S. attorney for New Mexico, said in a news release. “When jailers fail their duty to those in their charge, they will join them in custody.”

A prison transport van.
A prison transport van.KOB

Johnson’s first victim was a female pretrial detainee being transported from a jail in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Colorado in November 2019. While the van was stopped for gas and Johnson’s transport partner had walked away, the perpetrator removed the victim’s ankle restraints, rested a weapon on his lap and ordered her to partially remove her clothing and lie down, according to the Justice Department.

The victim told Johnson she was uncomfortable multiple times, and Johnson told her to cooperate, “otherwise, it was going to get ugly.” He admitted that he held the weapon against her cheek while he raped her, the department’s news release said.

Laura Schauer Ives, an attorney representing the victim, said her client is grateful that Johnson will be incapacitated and unable to rape others while he is in jail.

“There’s nothing within the justice system that makes up for what he did to her,” Schauer Ives said.

In July 2019, Johnson forced a nonconsenting female pretrial detainee to perform oral sex on him, prosecutors said. The victim was being transported from Spencer, Indiana, to San Marcos, Texas. Johnson admitted assaulting her while the van had stopped at the headquarters of his employer, Inmate Services Corp., or ISC, in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Johnson’s third victim was a woman being transported from Baker County, Oregon, to Warrensburg, Missouri, in August 2019. The perpetrator admitted raping the detainee while the transport van had stopped at a hotel and later forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

“This egregious conduct violates federal civil rights law, and the Justice Department will continue to resolutely seek justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Johnson worked for ISC at the time of the assaults. In September, the Arkansas-based private prisoner transport service settled a $625,000 class action lawsuit that alleged it subjected inmates to “cruel and unusual” conditions during prison transport.

The company did not admit to any wrongdoing. It could not be reached for comment Monday.

In November of last year, Rogeric Hankins, 37, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female detainee while he was working for ISC, the Justice Department said in a news release.

The U.S. attorney’s office for New Mexico prosecuted Johnson’s case, with assistance from the U.S. attorneys’ offices for Eastern Arkansas and Western Missouri.