Inmate pleads guilty to trying to sexually assault guard

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Posted: Oct 12, 2015 6:52 PM
Inmate pleads guilty to trying to sexually assault guard

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona inmate already serving life without parole will get an additional 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to trying to rape a guard, according to a plea agreement obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The deal shows Fernandes Masters pleaded guilty Friday to attempted sexual assault and had four other felony charges dropped.

Masters kissed and fondled the Yuma prison guard and tried to have intercourse with her during an April 13 meeting in an office, according to the indictment charging the 31-year-old.

The Department of Corrections disclosed the attack only after inquiries by the AP. Prison officials have said co-workers rescued the officer after she called for help, but they have provided no further details.

A prison guard union official told the AP in May that the inmate choked the female guard and was removing her clothes when other officers intervened.

"The Arizona Department of Corrections is committed to the prosecution and punishment of all inmates who perpetrate crimes within the prison system, especially those who target staff," spokesman Andrew Wilder said in a statement Monday.

The department has refused to release reports about the assault despite public records requests from the AP. What details are known have come from the indictment, corrections officer union officials and a bare-bones corrections department explanation of the assault.

Masters was indicted June 4 on charges of sexual abuse, aggravated assault of a corrections employee, kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. His attorney, Robert Billar, has never returned calls seeking comment on the case.

Masters has a history of assaults, including at least one on staff members. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2007 in a plea agreement that came after prosecutors dropped the death penalty, Maricopa County Superior Court records show. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing his stepfather in 2004 while robbing him to get money for drugs.

The attack was the second sexual assault on a female prisons employee in Arizona in the past two years. A teacher at a prison in Florence was raped last year by a convicted sex offender and is suing the state for failing to protect her. Jacob Harvey, 21, was sentenced to life in prison last month after pleading guilty to the rape. He had been serving a 30-year term when he assaulted the teacher in a classroom.

The state's workplace safety agency fined the corrections agency for failing to ensure the teacher's safety, but that fine is being appealed. The department also opened an investigation into the sexual assault in Yuma after it was reported by the AP.

That investigation was ongoing last month, but its current status was unclear because Monday was a state holiday.

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