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A former Carter County court bailiff and inmate transport officer admitted during an interview with Kentucky State Police detectives he’d engaged in a sexual act with a female jail inmate, one of those detectives testified on Tuesday.
However, Earl Buckler’s account of the incident deviated from the one given by the alleged victim, KSP Detective Sgt. Jim Goble said during a preliminary hearing in Carter District Court.
Buckler, 63, who was chief bailiff at the Carter County Justice Center and in charge of inmate transport, resigned his position with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department last week after being arrested by the KSP on a charge of third-degree sodomy. The charge is a Class D felony that carries a one- to five-year prison sentence.
Through his attorney, Paul Craft of Greenup, Buckler pleaded not guilty to the charge on Tuesday. Following the preliminary hearing, Special Judge Eric Hall of Floyd County ruled there was probable cause to send the case on to a grand jury. Hall also allowed Buckler to remain free on the same $10,000 unsecured bond.
Goble, the only witness called during the hearing, said the allegations against Buckler came to light during an internal investigation at the jail focusing on contraband being smuggled into the detention center through the female inmate pod. A deputy jailer contacted the KSP after an allegation was made involving “inappropriate sexual contact” between Buckler and female inmates, he said.
Under direct examination by Carter County Attorney Patrick Flannery, Goble said he and Detective Chris Carter, the lead investigator in the case, spoke to two inmates. The first said she and Buckler had never engaged in any sexual activity, but she directed the detectives to another inmate whom she said had told her that she had performed a sexual act on Buckler in exchange for cigarettes and a soft drink.
The second inmate, Goble said, told the detectives the incident occurred on Oct. 21 as Buckler was transporting her back to the detention center following a court hearing. Rather than taking her directly back to the jail, Goble said, the woman alleged Buckler went “off-path” and turned down Carol Malone Boulevard, went through a convenience store drive-through and purchased the cigarettes and soft drink, then drove to the Pactolus area and backed his cruiser into a corn field.
According to the woman’s account, Buckler then got out of the car and unzipped his trousers and the woman performed oral sex on him, Goble said. When the act was finished, they both got back into the car and Buckler drove her back to the jail, he said.
The woman also told the detectives Buckler had groped her breasts and buttocks on two previous occasions, and that those incidents had occurred in the elevator at the justice center, Goble said.
Goble said he and Carter interviewed Buckler that same day, and, after showing “some deception at first,” he admitted there had been sexual contact between him and the second inmate to whom the detectives had spoken.
However, Buckler denied the woman had performed oral sex on him, Goble said. He told the investigators she had masturbated him while he drove her around to various locations following her court hearing, Goble said. He also denied giving the woman cigarettes in exchange for sexual favors, but admitted giving her a soft drink.
“With the exception of the cigarettes and the oral sex, his statement mirrored that of the victim,” Goble said.
Goble said Buckler also told the detectives the woman was seated in the front seat of his vehicle next to him during the sex act, “which in and of itself is a little disturbing that he would transport a prisoner in that manner.”
While the woman acknowledged being a willing participant in the sex act, Goble said she also told detectives she felt intimated because Buckler was a law enforcement officer and because he kept his gun belt on the entire time.
“She made a statement to the effect of, ‘He was a cop. What was I supposed to do?’” he said.
Under cross-examination by Craft, Goble said he made clear to the inmate that her giving him information on Buckler would have no bearing on her charges. In fact, he said it was his understanding the woman had already been sentenced.
Goble said detectives had yet to review any log books or other records because the investigation was still in its early stages. He also said investigators were planning to review footage from the jail’s security cameras.
Also, Goble said he was aware that a third female inmate had been interviewed and that more charges might be forthcoming, depending on what she said.