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Security breach seen, jailer fired

Friday, December 21, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

A Marshall County Jail corrections officer has been dismissed after being seen on security video that showed her giving an inmate a paper bag that she and the inmate say contained food and books, officials said Wednesday.

Christina Robertson, 49, of Lewisburg was dismissed after she handed the bag to Brent Lee Hamby, 31, of Cookeville, an inmate from Putnam County where he was convicted on charges of driving under the influence and probation violation.

"They both admitted she brought food," Sheriff Norman Dalton said. "Supervisors received information and the information was proved correct by video. Chief Deputy Billy Lamb suspended her and waited until I got back from sick leave. She was dismissed Dec. 7."

Robertson didn't deny giving Hamby food and books, but said she resigned Dec. 5. "I have a big heart and treat people the way I want to be treated," she said, acknowledging consequences, but she saw no harm in giving someone a book.

Robertson was hired Jan. 17, 2006. Her last pay rate was $11.23 an hour. Corrections officers' hours vary week to week. If she worked all this year, she'd have been paid $24,526. Her departure creates a job opening. Applicants must pass a civil service test.

"She went into the control tower, relieved an officer, pops the tower door and hands out the bag of food to him and he goes back to his cell," Dalton said. "That's where she endangered herself. If he decided to turn on her, then we'd have had problems."

Since food is not illegal, Dalton did not foresee charges against Robertson. "It's a violation of policies," the sheriff said. "It's not criminal...

"From what I understood, it may have been going on for some time," Dalton said, deferring some questions to Assistant Jail Administrator Todd Knois, who said he found the video recording of the incident and, without additional information, looked no further. Such jail recordings are kept for months.

"I had no choice but to fire her," the sheriff said. "You put trust in employees and they let you down when you find something like that. It hurts and you have to discipline someone. Here's a six-year employee becoming friends with a prisoner in such a manner as to bring in food to a prisoner."

Knois said Robertson handed Hamby the bag at about 5:15 a.m. Dec. 5.

"All I have on video is her handing him a bag," Knois said. The bag and its contents weren't recovered. He can't say with certainty what was in the bag. Nor did he know much about the books that were supposedly in the bag, although he has surmised they were probably paperbacks.

"She had been a good employee," Knois said. "I have nothing bad to say about her other than this lapse of judgment."

As for why she was so good to him, Knois said, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Other dismissed jail employees include a 36-year-old woman in 2005 who pleaded guilty and paid restitution after embezzling money from the jail.