A suspended corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview accused of forcing an inmate to perform sexual acts on him pleaded no contest to the charges Thursday.
Marlin E. Freeman, 54, entered the plea to a felony charge of institutional sexual assault during a pre-trial conference Thursday in Centre County Court.
State police at Rockview said the Cleafield County man forced the inmate to perform sex acts in the prison chapel between September 2009 and April 2012.
Freeman allegedly threatened to take away the inmate’s janitorial job in the prison’s medical facility or get him placed in solitary confinement if he didn’t comply.
Police said they have DNA evidence that connects Freeman to the case.
Department of Corrections officials said Freeman was suspended without pay Nov. 16.
Spokeswoman Sue Bensinger said employees found guilty on such charges typically remain on suspension until sentencing, then they generally have their employment terminated.
State corrections officials said at the time of Freeman’s arrest in January that no other inmates had come forward with allegations.
Freeman was charged with felony counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, rape, sexual assault and institutional sexual assault. He pleaded no contest Thursday to institutional sexual assault.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller did not return calls seeking comment. Freeman’s defense attorney, Tami Fees, said she could not comment Thursday.
Freeman is scheduled to be sentenced June 6 before Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest.
Local defense attorney Julian Allatt said the charge carries a maximum penalty of seven years in state prison. A minimum sentence for someone with no prior criminal record could range from probation to nine months in jail.
The inmate, who has been incarcerated since 1984, is serving a life sentence on murder charges. He was at Rockview state prison from 2003 until the time he made the accusations.
He has also filed a lawsuit in federal court against Freeman and several other prison employees he claims were told of the assaults but did nothing to stop them, according to court records.
The lawsuit, which was filed in November, claims the inmate found the courage to report the abuse in March 2011, writing letters to two registered nurses and a health care administrator employed by the Department of Corrections.
He claims the employees, who are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, rebuffed him and warned that he never mention the allegations again.
The inmate is seeking a civil jury trial and is seeking punitive damages and interest.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.