A former Grand Forks County correctional officer has pleaded guilty to sexual assault and delivering a controlled substance to a person incarcerated in the jail. A victim impact statement claims her actions exacerbated the inmate's depression, anxiety, PTSD and self-esteem.
Savannah Marie Martin, 33, was sentenced to two years in the Grand Forks County Correctional Center on Monday, June 22, with all but three months suspended as part of a plea agreement. She will be serve most of that time on electronic home monitoring and will serve two years of supervised probation and 300 hours of community service.
Martin was accused of having a sexual relationship with Li'Von Bradford, who was incarcerated in the jail, and bringing him contraband tobacco, THC vape cartridges, a cell phone and other prohibited items in November. But at her preliminary hearing in January, questions were raised about the extent of her involvement in the contraband delivery.
As part of the plea agreement, the charges of misdemeanor delivery of tobacco to an inmate and felony delivery of a cell phone to an inmate were dismissed. The charge of felony sexual abuse of a ward also was amended to misdemeanor sexual assault.
Martin faced a maximum penalty of 20 years of prison and a $20,000 fine for delivering THC cartridges to the inmate, the most serious of the charges.
Martin was fired from the jail in November, prior to any charges being brought forward, after she allegedly had sexual contact with a second person incarcerated in the jail. Documents show that it's unclear whether she was the instigator of the incident, but she was terminated because she allegedly did not follow proper protocols for reporting it.
More than a week after Martin’s termination, a woman approached Grand Forks police claiming that a correctional officer had seduced her boyfriend, later identified as Bradford, while he was incarcerated.
A shakedown of Bradford's cell the day before, which was the result of a tip from the drug task force to jail staff, turned up several contraband items, including the cell phone, the vape pen, vape cartridges containing TCH, which is the psychoactive compound of cannabis, chewing tobacco, battery packs and Super Glue.
In the subsequent interview with investigators, Bradford admitted to having a sexual relationship with Martin for several months. During Martin’s preliminary hearing in January, however, her defense attorney Theodore Sandberg called into question the timeline of events, as well as the evidence that Martin had been the one to bring the contraband items into the jail.
Without video surveillance or testimony, Sandberg claimed that though the phone contained photos of Martin with Bradford, the only person with any demonstrable connection to the cell phone was Bradford's cellmate, who had the phone in his possession when searched, according to court documents.
Sandberg also claimed that, since the shakedown occurred more than a week after Martin was terminated, there was a chance that the contraband had been brought into the jail after she no longer had access to the facility.
Regardless of her involvement with delivering the contraband, Bradford claimed her treatment of him had a severe psychological impact on him, according to a Dec. 16 victim impact statement read during the change of plea hearing.
Bradford, who was transferred to Cass County Jail following the incident, alleged that Martin used scare tactics to control him and used the intercom and video systems to eavesdrop and spy on him. He also wrote that because of Martin's actions he was put in a suicide watch cell, where he alleged he was mistreated by her former co-workers and later had to undergo therapy.
"She knew what she was doing was wrong, deceitful, misleading, selfish, sexually abusive and against the rules for a reason," he wrote. "Savannah took from me my privacy, manipulated me and took advantage of me, using me as a boy toy while at work, which I asked her not to."
But Sandberg claimed that the victim impact statement did not offer a complete picture. He said that Bradford's statement is now being used in a federal witness intimidation investigation as part of an unrelated federal drug trafficking case, in which Bradford is facing two counts of felony conspiracy to possess more than 500 grams of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Sandberg claimed that Bradford has since told investigators that much of the impact statement - specifically, the pain he said the criminal justice system had caused him - was a lie, and that he is being investigated for attempting to intimidate multiple witnesses, including Martin.
"(Bradford) indicated that he was hopeful with his statements to the court of this type would shut up Savannah, so that she would not be able to use herself as a witness against him in other federal matters," Sandberg said. "So, I would ask the court to take Mr. Bradford's pain with a real big grain of salt here .... He is a professional criminal, a professional drug dealer. Ms. Martin made a lot of foolish mistakes, but hurting Mr. Bradford isn't one of them."