Female guard faces felony sex charges
Female guard faces felony sex charges
Prosecutors says she seduced two teen inmates
As a teenager, Lavelle Johnson was so hotheaded that officers at the King County juvenile detention center kept him in a cell by himself, even though otheryouths had roommates.
But late at night, alone in his bare room, Johnson said, he had company.
He said a female guard, Lydia Korolak, made regular visits to see him, at first complimenting the teenager on his maturity, then making overtly sexual overtures. Johnson, now 21, described their encounters during a recent telephone interview from the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, where he isserving time on a drug charge.
“Graveyard shift was when all the sexual acts were going on — the intercourse and oral sex,” he said. “She’d do her 15-minute checks, put the key in the lock, I’d hear it click, and then she’d be like, ‘Come on, hurry up.’ “
Korolak, 34, now faces four counts of custodial sexual misconduct for her alleged acts with Johnson and another youth with whom prosecutors say she had sex at the county’s Youth Services Center, beginning in 2001. She will be arraigned Aug. 1.
Johnson conceded that initially, he did not view Korolak’s attentions as a crime. Agreeing to her sexual requests brought favors — later bedtime hours, special food, he said.
“You know, you’re 17 years old in a juvenile facility and a female guard’s kissing on you, rubbing on you– if I got to be in jail, who wouldn’t dig that?” he said. “But then at times, I felt pressure — I did have a girlfriend on the outs.”
Their trysts began in 2001 and continued into 2002, Johnson said. Confused about exactly who was in the right or wrong, he sometimes wondered if their meetings might result in punishment for him. But eventually, Korolak indicated that she well knew who held the power, he said.
“After she got to telling me, ‘We got to slow down, they’re onto me,’ I was like, what you mean they’reonto you?” Johnson said.
Custodial sexual misconduct became law in 1999 and, as a Class C felony, carries a standard sentence of about five years. The law does not accept inmate consentas a defense, because prison advocates and corrections experts agree that the power difference between a prisoner and a guard is too great for any true consent.
Even when Johnson was transferred out of King County to the Green Hill School, a secure facility in Chehalis for juvenile offenders, he said Korolak maintained the connection, sending him letters, talking with him on the phone and depositing money into his student account.
The charges against Korolak culminate a months-long investigation by a task force that included Seattle police detectives, King County deputy prosecutors and detention officials. It focused on several guards at the Youth Services Center, but Korolak was the only officer charged.
Korolak is not in police custody. She is on paid leave from her detention center job.
Johnson allegedly was not the only teen receiving her attentions. Another boy, also 17 at the time and referred to in court documents as “J.H.,” also had sexual relations with Korolak, according to court documents.
But he told detectives their relationship was not voluntary. Korolak had threatened to report him as a troublemaker if he did not comply with her demands, he said.
He said he had a sexual relationship with the guard in 2002.
J.H. told detectives that Korolak asked him to be her boyfriend and offered to kick her mother out of the condominium they shared if he would move in with her, according to court documents.
At a news conference Tuesday, Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said the task force reviewed 13 cases, but in six were unable to determine whether a crime had taken place. At least four cases remain under investigation, he said.
Some employees who will not be charged with any crime could still face discipline, including termination for failing to take action to prevent misconduct.
“We don’t like anybody poisoning the environment,” County Executive Ron Sims said.
According to county records, as of last month Adult and Juvenile Detention had 10 employees on paid administrative leave because they are subjects of misconduct investigations.
Also on the list are three officers who have been charged in two other cases of sexual misconduct involving adult female inmates in the King County Jail.
According to documents filed incourt Tuesday, the corrections agency learned of Korolak’s relationship with a minor in July 2003 when another inmate complained to authorities about the misconduct.
Back then, both she and Johnson denied any sexual relationship.
Then, in March 2006, the agency reviewed its internal investigation cases, and the one involving Korolak was sent along to the Seattle police task force for further investigation.
This time, Johnson admitted to multiple sexual encounters with the officer, court records say.
When detectives interviewed Korolak in March, she allegedly admitted to having sex with Johnson and the other teen.
The corrections agency has been wrestling with the problem of misconduct, particularly inappropriate relations,by corrections officers for several months now. Earlier this year, the department invited the Moss Group to review practices and procedures at the jail and the youth services center. The firm specializes in helping corrections agencies curb sexual misconduct.
Reed Holtgeerts, director of adult and juvenile detention in the county, said he and others were initially concerned that the misconduct was more widespread than it turned out to be.
Yet, although investigators believe the incidents were isolated and involved a relatively small number of officers, he said, the county has asked for outside review of its policies.
“When an individual crosses the line like this,” Holtgeerts said, “it’s sending a message that we got to start looking to clean our house.”
P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.