ARAPAHO — Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess resigned Wednesday upon being charged with 35 felony counts involving an alleged sex-slave operation at his jail. The allegations include having sex with female inmates and threatening to have a drug court participant in his custody sent to prison if she didn't comply with his demands. One count accuses Burgess, 55, of touching a female deputy inappropriately. Special prosecutor James Boring said Burgess could be sentenced to 467 years in prison if convicted on all 35 counts. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between October 2005 and April 2007. Burgess surrendered to Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents and appeared in court before a district judge, Boring said in a statement. The judge set Burgess' bail at $50,000 and ordered the former sheriff not to have any contact with any of the witnesses in the case. Immediately before his court appearance, Burgess resigned, effective immediately. He had served as Custer County sheriff since 1994. Burgess's attorney didn't return a phone message.
About the accusationsA federal lawsuit filed in October claims Burgess told one drug court participant he would have her sent to prison if she didn't comply with his sexual demands. The lawsuit, filed by 12 former jail prisoners, alleges the sheriff's employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts. One prisoner claimed she became a jail trusty with more freedom after agreeing to perform a sex act on Burgess but lost that status when she later refused. Tulsa attorney Thomas Seymour, who represents the former prisoners in the lawsuit, said in October the case "was one of the most disgusting things” he had seen.
State begins investigatingAfter learning of the charges filed Wednesday, Seymour said he was looking forward to seeing the case play out. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began looking into the matter in May 2007, said Boring, who also is the district attorney for the Panhandle counties. His office was appointed to handle the possible charges after the local district attorney bowed out. One of the bribery counts alleges Burgess asked a drug court participant in May 2007 to go to the home of one of the alleged victims and recover incriminating DNA evidence. In return, the person's brother would be released from prison, prosecutors allege. This happened on May 21, 2007, the day before the OSBI investigation began. Contributing: Staff Writer Johnny Johnson
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What charges does he face?Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess faces these counts: •Engaging in a pattern of criminal offenses (one count); •Sexual battery (two); •Bribery by a public official (five); •Forcible oral sodomy (seven); •Indecent exposure (one); •Kidnapping (one); •Second-degree rape (14); •Rape by instrumentation (two); •Subornation of perjury (two).