FORKS — Lawyers are fashioning a plea deal that could reduce the charges against a former Forks jail corrections officer accused of sexually assaulting four jail inmates over seven months in 2019.
John Russell Gray, 52, of Forks was put on unpaid administrative leave from his corrections officer job at Clallam Bay Corrections Center after he was arrested in May.
Gray was charged May 29 with one count of felony first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and two counts of gross misdemeanor second-degree custodial sexual misconduct.
After pleading not guilty to those charges, two additional charges of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct were added July 24, increasing the total to five charges.
All four women, now former inmates, have agreed to testify if the case goes to trial, according to court documents.
One said Gray raped her twice in a single day.
First-degree misconduct involves sexual intercourse. It has a maximum five-year sentence and requires the person to report to authorities as a sex offender.
Second-degree misconduct involves sexual contact. It has a maximum 364-day sentence and does not require sex-offender notification.
Spokane lawyer Joe Kuhlman, representing Gray, and Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said at a Clallam County Superior Court status hearing Friday they are working on a plea bargain for Gray.
The agreement could be ready for consideration by Superior Court Judge Simon Barnhart at a status hearing set for 9 a.m. Sept. 18.
Barnhart canceled a trial date of Oct. 5 in anticipation of the Sept. 18 hearing and an agreement.
A plea offer Devlin filed July 17 based on Gray’s offender score gave sentencing guideline ranges of 41-54 months of incarceration and 36 months of community supervision for one count of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and each of two counts of second-degree custodial sexual misconduct — the original charges.
That same day, Devlin filed the additional two charges.
Kuhlman told Barnhart if negotiations are not “fruitful,” he would expect a trial date would be set for 2021, and Devlin agreed.
“We’ll have a hearing two weeks out, when we’ll be able to tell the court better whether there’s a realistic expectation of resolving [the case] or not,” Devlin said.
According to the probable cause statement, Gray would sexually assault the women, then pay their bail, unbidden.
An investigation began after a Port Angeles woman arrested on an outstanding Superior Court warrant told a sheriff’s office deputy that she was afraid to be incarcerated at the Forks jail.
She said Gray had made her give him oral sex when she was jailed there and feared Gray would hurt her, according to the probable cause statement.
She said she believed Gray paid her $200 bail “to keep her quiet.”
In two instances, Gray’s cash was hidden in court papers, and another time, in a book, according to the statement.
Two of the women are recorded on phone calls saying Gray made the payments.
One of the women alleged Gray assaulted her while driving her in an inmate-transport van from the Mason County jail to the Forks jail.
Forks City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck said in an earlier interview that Gray, who is married, worked some shifts at the prison while working full-time at the jail.
Forks Police Chief Mike Rowley fired Gray on Nov. 18 after he made inappropriate comments to two female inmates, saying one woman was acting like “a princess,” Fleck said.
Kuhlman said Gray has not been disciplined for any sex-related offenses while at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, where he has worked since 1997.
Gray has been disciplined more than once for other offenses, according to the results of a Peninsula Daily News public records request being fulfilled by the state Department of Corrections.
He was reprimanded Jan. 30, 2017, for misconduct for using ethnic and homophobic slurs against at least two CBCC co-workers.
“Your actions as described [in the letter of reprimand] demonstrate your failure to conduct yourself with the highest level of ethical and professional standards,” prison Superintendent Ron Haynes said in the letter of reprimand.
“While you state you are just trying to have fun and not trying to offend anyone, the terms you use in your regular communications are very offensive to most people.”
Gray defended Asian slurs he used toward one co-worker by saying the colleague “didn’t care and then made some comment about getting on the ‘Trump train,’ ” according to a CBCC employee.
Gray was released from the Clallam County jail July 27 on $50,000 bail after his bail was reduced from $250,000.
He was placed on electronic home-monitoring “for GPS monitoring only,” not home detention, according to his conditions of release.
Gray is not allowed to have contact with any inmate of a jail or prison, according to conditions of release that were modified Aug. 20.
The four women he allegedly assaulted have sexual-assault protection orders against him.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].