Women testify against jailer; Truckee man faces 32 counts of sexual misconduct
Midway through her testimony, the doe-eyed young blonde woman sought the refuge of her father’s arms after breaking down in tears on the witness stand, trying to explain how a former Nevada County jailer allegedly cupped her breasts with both hands while he said he was adjusting her bra because it didn’t look right to him.
A tearful brigade of women began taking the witness stand last Thursday in Nevada City, testifying to the sexual abuse they say Bobby “B.A.” Rutledge put them through while behind bars.
Shortly before Amber, 20, was overcome on the stand by the traumatic memories of Rutledge’s alleged abuse, the accused man’s wife left the courtroom.
After watching another woman testify against her husband, she could not contain her tears when Amber started telling her story.
Fourteen women have accused Rutledge, 29, of abusing them in varying degrees. On Tuesday, charges of rape and sodomy, along with two more victims, were added to the list by District Attorney Mike Ferguson, who is prosecuting the case before Judge Al Dover.
Rutledge faces 32 counts of sexual misconduct with female inmates in the Nevada County Sheriff Department’s substation in Truckee, all of which he pleaded innocent to.
Amber testified Rutledge asked her to “model” for him by lifting her shirt up and exposing her bra. After telling her it still wasn’t fitting correctly – he had already fondled her breasts in a similar incident earlier – he reached inside both cups with his hands, grabbed her breasts from the bottom, and “adjusted” them, Amber testified tearfully.
She was in the jail because she was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Amber said she drank three beers before leaving a concert near Donner Summit on July 5.
Before releasing her to her boyfriend, Rutledge told Amber she owed him dinner for the favors he did for her. Telling her he needed one more hug before she left, Rutledge allegedly whispered to her, “Don’t forget me,” Amber testified.
Her story alleged the least amount of groping of the three women who testified Thursday. According to testimony, Rutledge failed to have intercourse with one woman who was curled up on her bunk trying to escape him only because he failed to become aroused.
“I was scared to death. There was no one else in the jail. There was nothing I could do,” Mary Ann testified.
Another woman said Rutledge invited her to perform oral sex with him.
“Like, he was doing me some big favor,” Dana said. “I genuinely believe he thought it was a treat for me.”
She declined, but by then Dana said Rutledge had felt her breasts and naked body after making her strip in front of him.
Rutledge never threatened her, but Dana said she felt intimidated while he allegedly molested her.
“I feel there is always a threat between an inmate and a cop, because you are under their power,” she said.
Several victims have made damage claims against the county, alleging officials failed to prevent the alleged abuse.
Stephen Munkelt raised credibility questions with each of the four victims who took the stand this week to testify that Bobby “B.A.” Rutledge molested them during stays in the Nevada County Sheriff Office’s Truckee substation.
Munkelt also questioned the women about whether they have filed claims against the county or have contacted an attorney. The prospect of financial gain for victims poses a bias, he said.
“Have you discussed with your attorney an amount you should reasonably expect to recover?” Munkelt on Friday asked a victim named Mary. She said no.
Other than questioning the criminal records and intoxication levels of victims at the time of the alleged abuse, the attorney for a former Nevada County jailer charged with sexually molesting female inmates has offered little insight into the defense.
All of the women who testified said Rutledge was gentle and kind when they first met him. Munkelt also noted Rutledge never struck or overtly threatened the women.
After the hearing, Munkelt said it isn’t necessary for him to present a full defense at the preliminary hearing, a felony proceeding in Municipal Court where the prosecution offers evidence from its case to a judge who decides if the case is strong enough to be advanced to Superior Court.
The hearing continued Tuesday and at the conclusion Rutledge was arraigned on eight new charges – including rape and sodomy.
Ferguson indicated he wanted Rutledge’s bail increased following the arraignment of the new charges. The 29-year-old married father of one posted a $55,000 bail bond in October.
Ferguson said the severity of the new charges increases the risk that Rutledge may flee. Munkelt argued otherwise, noting Rutledge has made all his hearings.
Dover said the issue of bail will be discussed after the arraignment.
– Editor’s note: Out of respect for the confidentiality of the victims, the Sierra Sun will refer to women testifying in this case only by their first names.
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