By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Prosecutors charged a former Dane County deputy Thursday with sexually assaulting a jail inmate while she was out on electronic monitoring and keeping child pornography on his home computers.
Jeffrey Hilgers, 42, faces one count of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff and seven counts of possessing child pornography. All the charges are felonies; he could face up to 215 years in prison if he’s convicted on every count.
Hilgers, of Madison, made his initial court appearance Thursday. Court Commissioner Scott McAndrew released him on a signature bond and ordered him to have no contact with girls under 18. Hilgers’ attorney, Brian Hough, declined to comment.
According to a criminal complaint, Hilgers met the 42-year-old inmate in 2012 while he was assigned to the jail. She told investigators in May 2013 that he never spoke to her and nothing happened between them in the jail but she found him “very, very attractive.”
She ran into Hilgers at a grocery store in April 2013 while she was in a program that allows inmates to serve part of their jail sentences outside of the facility. The two struck up a conversation and soon started a sexual relationship, according to the complaint.
Wisconsin law prohibits correctional officers from having sex with inmates. The woman told Hilgers she was on electronic monitoring but she believed she was going to be released later in April, the complaint said. In reality, her release date had been pushed back to June. The woman said she probably wouldn’t have started a relationship with him if she had known that.
Hilgers told an investigator in May 2013 he knew the woman was in an alternative jail program but didn’t realize she was still an inmate until the investigator told him, according to the complaint.
The woman said she never felt she had to have sex with him because he was a deputy, the complaint said. She didn’t see Hilgers as a police officer and he never showed up at her home in full uniform, she said.
“I just am so afraid he’s going to get in trouble here and it’s really unwarranted,” she said.
Investigators seized Hilgers’ computers in June 2013 as they searched for evidence of his communications with the woman. An analysis of the computers revealed images of child pornography, according to the complaint, which cites seven specific examples of photographs of preteen girls.
Hilgers resigned from the sheriff’s department in August 2013. The agency issued a news release Thursday saying that Sheriff David Mahoney believes that deputies should be held accountable if they use their positions inappropriately.
The complaint gives no indication of why it took a year for prosecutors to charge him. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne didn’t immediately return a message.
Hilgers is due back in court for a status conference on Sept. 15.