Updated: Jail officer accused of misconduct, aggravated battery

Updated  2:50 p.m. Friday.

URBANA — A 33-year-old woman who was working as a Champaign County correctional officer has been criminally charged for allegedly telling one inmate that another one was wearing a wire.

Sara B. Garrett of Champaign was charged Friday with official misconduct in connection with a Sept. 28 incident at the county jail that resulted in the inmate who was wearing the wire being beaten by another inmate.

Garrett has also been charged in a separate case with aggravated battery and mob action for her role in an incident at a Champaign home last Saturday in which her boyfriend allegedly beat up another man who had called her a name.

Sheriff Dan Walsh said the behavior that led to the official misconduct charge came to the attention of Champaign County sheriff's deputies the day it happened and had been under investigation since then by his detectives. On Wednesday, a citizen called Walsh to tell him about the Saturday battery. He relayed that report to the Champaign police for investigation since the incident happened in the city and his detectives worked with Champaign police on that case.

Regarding the wire incident, State's Attorney Julia Rietz said Champaign police detective Mark Strzesak had obtained a court order in September that authorized him to put a recording device on one inmate in hopes of getting information out of someone else who was in custody for an investigation Strzesak was conducting.

On Sept. 28, Garrett allegedly told an inmate whom she had known for several years that another was wearing a wire and that he should avoid that person. The inmate to whom Garrett told the classified information then told other inmates, resulting in the informant being beaten that day. Walsh explained that Garrett was among a small number of officers who were privy to the need-to-know information.

Rietz declined to identify the inmate who allegedly beat the informant but said no additional charges are being filed against him now.

Walsh said after interviewing inmates and reviewing videotape from the satellite jail, the investigation focused on Garrett, who’s been employed there since June 18.

"We've been working on it since Sept. 28. It takes a while to interview and reinterview people and get in a position to talk to suspects," said the sheriff, who added that Strzesak received a critical piece of information that “helped us hone in on relevant material.”

Walsh said Garrett was fired on Thursday. Following her arrest, she was taken to another county jail for her own safety.

Rietz said in the battery case, a 42-year-old Bondville man was at the home of his ex-wife in the 900 block of Dogwood Drive in Champaign about 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. He answered his ex-wife’s cell phone and had a conversation with Garrett, a friend of his ex-wife, that resulted in him calling her a name. Not long after that, Garrett and her boyfriend, Ryan Byerley, 32, of Mahomet, showed up at the Dogwood address.

“Byerley begins punching (the victim) in the head and kicking him in the ribs,” Rietz said.

The prosecutor said as Garrett was leaving with her boyfriend — who’s also been charged with aggravated battery — she reportedly told the victim he was never to disrespect her again or she would have him arrested. She was wearing her correctional officer uniform at the time, Rietz said.

Walsh said Garrett, who was assigned to a day shift, was not on duty at the time of the alleged battery Saturday.

The victim of the battery did not contact police when the incident happened, Rietz said.

Official misconduct and aggravated battery are Class 3 felonies carrying penalties ranging from probation to two to five years in prison upon conviction. Mob action is a Class 4 felony with penalties ranging from probation to one to three years in prison.

Judge Richard Klaus set bond at $100,000 on each of Garrett's cases, appointed an attorney to represent her and told her to be back in court Dec. 18.

 

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