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Tennessee Corrections Officer Charged With Obstructing Sexual Misconduct Case Involving Inmate

James Thomas, a corrections officer, is accused of obstructing a sexual misconduct investigation into his alleged actions with an inmate in his custody dating back to 2016. He is also the brother and guardian of teenager Elizabeth Thomas, who was abducted in 2017.

By Dorian Geiger
Jail Cell

A Tennessee corrections officer allegedly falsified reports surrounding a probe into sexual misconduct allegations leveled against him involving a prisoner. 

Maury County corrections worker James Stewart Thomas, 31, was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly obstructing an investigation into allegations of unwanted sexual contact with an inmate in his custody. Thomas was charged with one count of falsification of records, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. The Department of Justice announced the charges on Monday. 

The charges stem from an ongoing investigation into alleged nonconsensual sexual contact Thomas had with a female prisoner in his custody in 2016, NBC affiliate WSMV reported in 2018.

Prosecutors say Thomas falsely claimed in an official report pertaining to the incident “that he had reported to two Maury County Jail supervisors that an inmate had made sexual advances toward him while the inmate was in his custody at a hospital.” He further claimed that the two supervisors had “advised him not to write a report about those alleged sexual advances by the inmate.”

Thomas also allegedly failed to disclose that he had a sexual relationship with the inmate after her release.

The inmate at the center of the sexual misconduct allegations, was identified as Carissa Christ, who publicly spoke out about the incidents in 2018. 

“He is a sexual predator,” Christ said of Thomas, WSMV reported. “I’d wake up and he’d be standing there, in the middle of our cell, two o’clock in the morning.”

Christ said Thomas' abuse of her began after he was assigned to keep watch on her after she had surgery, and then became a more regular occurrence before her release.

Tennessee law classifies all sexual contact between corrections personnel and inmates as sexual assault.

Another inmate also reported inappropriate contact between Thomas and Christ.

Another corrections officer, who WSMV interviewed but did not identify, said Thomas confessed to her on the night of Christ's surgical recovery, "I would go to the federal penitentiary for what I’ve done." She then witnessed on video and ultimately reported him repeatedly visiting Christ's cell.

"There was no doubt in my mind that there was a sexual relationship happening," she told the station — and her supervisors, who had her document them. Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland told the station the six or eight reports from 2016 had disappeared by 2018 and the system didn't store videos that long.

Thomas' former coworker had offered to testify against him, but never heard back from local prosecutors.

Thomas’ then-attorney also vehemently denied the allegations at the time.

“In no uncertain terms, [Thomas] absolutely denies that there was never once, every any physical contact between him and this woman while she was in jail. Period,” Jason Whatley also told the outlet at the time.

Thomas was arrested at his home by FBI agents, the Williamson Source reported. He was expected to appear before a U.S. magistrate judge earlier this week.

Thomas is listed as a night shift field training officer on a county website. A spokesperson for the Maury County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to multiple requests for comment when contacted by Oxygen.com on Thursday.

Coincidentally, Thomas is also the custodian of teenager Elizabeth Thomas, whose unrelated 2017 kidnapping by her then 50-year-old teacher Tad Cummins made national headlines. Cummins, who was indicted on charges of transporting a minor across state lines, later pleaded guilty to Elizabeth Thomas’ abduction. He’s currently serving a 10-year sentence.

Police handouts of Elizabeth Thomas and Tad Cummins

James Thomas was appointed her custodian after the kidnapping ended — and well after the accusations had been made against him — which both Christ and the former co-worker said in 2018 gave them significant pause.

Thomas has not been charged with the alleged assaults on Christ.

Thomas’ lawyer has since denied the allegations.

“James Thomas is a good and decent man who is only in the spotlight because of who he is,” his lawyer Jason Whatley, who also previously represented Thomas’ family, told WSMV this week. “It is unfortunate that the news media treats differently those, who by no choice of their own, are forced into the public spotlight. My sincere believe and prayer is that the truth will ultimately prevail and that people will let James and his family live in peace.”

Oxygen.com was unable to reach Whatley for comment on Thursday.

If convicted of the obstruction charge, Thomas would face up to 20 years behind bars. 

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