Ex-Truckee jailer convicted on 17 sexual offenses
NEVADA CITY – Jurors on March 4 acquitted former Truckee jailer Bobby Alvin “B.A.” Rutledge Jr. of four of 28 charges against him – two alleging rape and two alleging digital penetration.
The charges could have brought anywhere from 30 years to life in prison.
The jury did find Rutledge guilty of 17 charges, including five felony sexual battery counts, while acquitting him of 10 other sexual misconduct charges.
Throughout the five-week trial, Rutledge, 30, sat stoically next to his defense attorney, Stephen Munkelt. Upon hearing the second “not guilty” verdict for rape, Rutledge pulled off his glasses and rubbed eyes.
Rutledge’s wife, Peggy, sat immediately behind him March 4 and leaned forward when the rape verdict was read.
The seven women and five men on the jury told Superior Court Judge Ersel L. Edwards that they were impossibly deadlocked 11-1 on two misdemeanor sexual charges. The judge declared a mistrial on the two counts and will hear District Attorney Michael Ferguson’s plans for them March 12.
Edwards set April 2 for sentencing.
The jury’s verdicts drew to a close a case that began in August 1997 when the first of 13 women accused Rutledge of conducting illegal strip searches while they were incarcerated in the county’s jail facility in Truckee. The verdict showed jurors believed all but two of the 13 women – Ginger and Mary – the two that accused Rutledge of rape.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised by the verdict,” said Ferguson, adding that it was a difficult case. “There were credibility issues raised as to the two victims.”
But Ferguson said the six felony convictions mean Rutledge could face up to eight years and eight months in state prison.
“It was a very discerning jury. They sifted through all the facts, spent their time going over the testimony, and made their decision. We had a good jury.”
Munkelt, obviously pleased with the verdict, fought throughout the trial to discredit the prosecution’s two star witnesses.
“This is a terrific victory for my client. There was a great deal of difference in the victims’ testimony, and the jury saw that,” Munkelt said.
Rutledge was hustled out of the crowded courtroom and offered no comment. But Munkelt said that immediately after the verdicts were read, Rutledge turned to him and said that a “great weight had been lifted” and that Rutledge looked forward to talking to him in the next few days to discuss the sentencing phase.
Munkelt also praised the jurors.
“The way the evidence came in, the results were really something I expected, although you can never guess what the jury will decide.
“This is a terrific recommendation for the jury system. They made such a careful deliberation and severe evaluation of the evidence.”
Verdict sends “clear message”
Even though Bobby Alvin “B.A.” Rutledge Jr. was the accused, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and county government were in a sense also on trial during the former jailer’s five-week trial.
County officials and employees filled the second-floor courtroom in Nevada City to hear the verdicts read March 4. Present
were nearly a dozen correctional officers and bailiffs, a half-dozen deputy district attorneys, Sheriff Keith Royal, Undersheriff John Trauner and Sheriff’s Capt. Bob Hamill.
“From an image standpoint, it’s still bad for Nevada County, but it’s not as bad as it could have been,” said Mark Rathe, assistant county counsel.
Rathe has been following the trial’s progress, sitting in on testimony from some of the 13 women witnesses, as well as at other times.
The guilty verdicts mean the county was justified in firing Rutledge from his job as a corrections officer and nullifies a wrongful termination claim filed by Rutledge. The outcome of that claim was contingent on the verdicts, according to Rathe.
The not-guilty verdicts also lessen the county’s liability in three civil lawsuits filed against the county, according to Rathe. One, thrown out of federal court in Sacramento, is being appealed.
“The OJ (Simpson) trial showed that you could still be found liable for civil damages because there’s a different level of proof,” Rathe said. “But, obviously, the verdicts indicate that certain of the women lack credibility.”
Royal, who was not in office in 1997, said “the verdict sends a message to personnel that certain conduct will not be condoned.”
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Truckee will get a chance of snow midweek before warmer weather returns for the weekend, the National Weather Service said.