HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Barry County jail officer is off the job amid allegations of criminal gross indecency with inmates that led to felony charges.
Wayne Hoffman, 44, was arrested in May and has been charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors — charges that the Barry County prosecutor says stem from incidents involving female inmates at the jail where he worked.
The charges include two counts of felony gross indecency, one count of misdemeanor prostitution – accosting and soliciting, and one count of misdemeanor obscenity. The felony charges each carry a maximum of five years in prison.
“There was allegedly some solicitation by him toward female inmates,” Barry County Prosecutor Julie Nakfoor Pratt said in a phone interview. “His position of authority is what makes it egregious.”
Nakfoor Pratt said the complaints do not involve physical contact between Hoffman and the victim. She said Hoffman asked one female inmate to perform inappropriate acts on herself and another inmate. Some of the acts did take place.
She said the incidents started in August of last year and continued through December. Nakfoor Pratt said only two inmates were involved.
Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf says a complaint was filed and his office launched an investigation.
“I think my office handled it perfectly,” Leaf said late Tuesday in a phone interview. “We had a complaint and my officers did their jobs.”
Before the incident, Leaf said, Hoffman was an officer in good standing. The sheriff said the allegations “caught us by surprise.”
Hoffman was allowed to resign his position instead of being fired.
“I’m trying to rack my brain on why we accepted that,” Leaf said when asked about Hoffman’s departure agreement. “I’m gonna have to ask my undersheriff…”
Despite the seriousness of the charges, Hoffman was not officially booked into jail and no mug shot was available for release.
Leaf said that happened because of an arrangement between the prosecutor’s office and Hoffman’s attorney. Nakfoor Pratt confirmed there was an agreement made for Hoffman to turn himself in. She said it is standard practice.
Leaf said Hoffman was fingerprinted, but a mug shot was not taken. “It’s not uncommon” for a suspect not to be fully booked in the jail for felony charges when there’s an agreement with prosecutors, Leaf said.
The sheriff and Nakfoor Pratt deny any special treatment for Hoffman.
“No special treatment at all,” Nakfoor Pratt said.
The Barry County Sheriff’s Department opted to handle the investigation itself and not bring in an outside investigative agency. Nakfoor Pratt said that did not hurt the investigation.
“It was a very thorough investigation,” Nakfoor Pratt said. “They took the time they needed to be thorough and fair.”
Often when an officer is charged with a crime that occurred while on duty, departments send out a news release in an effort to remain transparent. That didn’t happen in this case. 24 Hour News 8 learned of the charges months after they were filed because of a tip from a source.
Hoffman will be back in court on Aug. 20 for a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. He has pleaded not guilty.
He was not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon at phone numbers listed for his home.
“These are people under his care,” Nakfoor Pratt said about the allegations. “He’s supposed to be caring for these people in the jail.”
“I’m glad somebody came forward so we could handle it,” Leaf said. “This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in our world and it won’t be the last… It’s always a disappointment.”