Contracted nurse charged with sex with inmates at Clark County jail

Contracted nurse charged with sex with inmates at Clark County jail
(Source: Bill Oxford)

By APRILE RICKERT | News and Tribune

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (News and Tribune) - A nurse formerly contracted by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office is facing multiple felonies after police say she had sex with inmates and smuggled in drugs and a cell phone.

Laura F. Schmidt, a 38-year-old Licensed Practical Nurse, was charged April 15 with six felonies related to allegations from early March — a level 6 felony for dealing in a controlled substance, two level 5 felonies for trafficking with an inmate and three level 5 felonies for sexual misconduct by a service provider. She is not currently in custody and has an initial hearing June 29 in Clark County Circuit Court No. 2.

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Court records show that on March 21, investigators began looking into allegations that Schmidt had been engaging in illegal activities during her time at the jail. She was reported to have been “overly friendly with the inmates...showing special attention” to one in particular. Police also suspected that Schmidt was responsible for 34 grams of Spice (synthetic marijuana) and a cell phone being found on March 15 and March 21 in jail pods.

Video surveillance showed Schmidt taking three different male inmates to the nurse’s station for extended periods of time on separate occasions. Review of digital messages shows that two of the men had sent messages to their family members telling them to add Schmidt on Facebook.

“The communications revealed that each inmate (of the three) had developed a personal relationship with Nurse Schmidt and each inmate appeared to have been involved in sexual activity with Nurse Schmidt,” according to court records.

Investigators installed motion-activated cameras, the footage of which was only to be reviewed if the inmates were in the nurse’s station for an unusual amount of time. Review of the footage showed her engaged in sex acts with one of the men.

During an interview with police April 7, Schmidt initially said her only dealings with the three inmates had been when providing them medical services, and that no sex had occurred or been propositioned.

When the investigator showed her a screenshot of the video involving sex between her and an inmate, she admitted it was her and said she also had sex with two others as well. She also told police she had sex two to three times with one particular inmate and had brought him drugs twice. He’s facing a misdemeanor for possession of a cell phone in jail.

Jail staff say Schmidt continued contact with this man and on April 14, investigators found that his social media had been updated to show he was in a relationship with Schmidt. Clark County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Scottie Maples said this activity was investigated and determined that the inmate had friends or family on the outside maintaining his social media for him; he is not alleged to have had a phone inside the jail at that time.

Maples said while it’s rare that someone working in the jail would be having inappropriate relationships with inmates, it’s easy to tell when it’s happening.

“When someone is doing something like this, it is readily apparent through the clues,” Maples said. “In this incident, we had multiple tips from officers that they recognized things that just didn’t make sense, and also from inmates. We typically catch people that are doing this rather quickly.”

He said when they do have such cases, “we are very aggressive with our investigation,” he said. “Sheriff [Jamey] Noel has always held it high that if we have someone working at the jail [or] for the jail, if they’re doing improper things they will be investigated and if they committed a criminal offense it will be recommended to the prosecutor.”

He said he doesn’t see much that can be beefed up to prevent something like this from happening in the future.

“We have strong procedures in place, they’ve even strengthened recently due to COVID-19,” he said. “This was an isolated incident that was a very poor criminal decision by the subject.”

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull said his office intends to aggressively prosecute anyone accused of bringing a criminal element to those already in jail.

“I can just tell you that the sheriff and I are relentless in working to make sure that this jail is a safe environment where individuals are able to be safely housed and rehabilitated,” Mull said. “The presence of individuals who wish to engage in criminal conduct there or traffic in substances isn’t going to be tolerated.”

Court records show Schmidt was employed through a company the jail contracts with for medical care. She started at the jail Feb. 3 and worked until the investigation began. An online search shows her nursing license to still be active through the Indiana Nursing Board.