Former Clallam County corrections deputy charged after sexual contact accusations

Former Clallam County Corrections Deputy Howard Blair

Former Clallam County Corrections Deputy Howard Blair

PORT ANGELES — Howard Andrew Blair, a former Clallam County corrections deputy accused of having sexual contact with female inmates, was charged Monday with one felony and three gross misdemeanors in connection with the allegations.

The charges were filed by Grays Harbor County Prosecuting Attorney Katie Svoboda.

The cases will be adjudicated in Clallam County Superior Court.

Blair, 54, was charged with one count of felony first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and three counts of gross-misdemeanor second-degree custodial sexual misconduct involving four women.

First-degree custodial sexual misconduct involves sexual intercourse, while second-degree custodial misconduct involves sexual contact.

Blair had been accused of inappropriately touching eight inmates and having sexual relations with another woman who was incarcerated in the Clallam County jail last year, Sheriff Bill Benedict said.

Chief Criminal Deputy Brian King said Monday that the statute of limitations had expired for some of the allegations.

Gross misdemeanors may not be prosecuted more than two years after they are committed.

“During our investigation we discovered victims where conduct dated back to 2015, so the limitation of actions had expired,” King said.

King said no other first-degree custodial sexual misconduct is known to have occurred.

“I’m hoping that at this point we have identified all his potential victims,” King said.

One sexual misconduct complaint led to the seven other allegations, King said.

Blair, who is not in custody, is expected to make his first court appearance later this month, Benedict said.

A woman reported Sept. 24 that Blair had grabbed her buttocks while she was in jail. Blair was placed on administrative leave two days later.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Detective Joshua Ley determined that Blair had inappropriately touched eight women while he was on duty.

The criminal investigation found no other deputies were involved.

Chief Corrections Deputy Wendy Peterson conducted a parallel administrative investigation into Blair’s behavior, which led to his forced resignation, Benedict said.

Blair, who was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in April 2007, resigned in lieu of termination Dec. 22.

In February, a former Clallam County jail inmate who had been sentenced to state prison last June told a mental heath counselor that she and Blair had consensual sexual relations over a period of about six months.

A person who is in custody is not legally able to give consent.

The woman said the sexual contact occurred “in all the blind spots” where newly-installed security cameras could not detect them.

The Grays Harbor County prosecutor is handling the case to avoid conflicts of interest between the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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