- A judge in Kentucky offered a man convicted of sexual assault the option to rejoin the military in lieu of jail time this month.
- Brandon Scott Price, 28, was convicted of sexually assaulting a female inmate at Franklin County Regional Jail where he worked as a guard.
- While judges are free to make these determinations, military regulations prevent applicants from being court-ordered into service without a waiver.
A Kentucky judge ordered an Army veteran convicted of sexual assault to rejoin the military or go to jail, The State Journal reported Friday.
Brandon Scott Price, a 28-year-old former prison guard, was convicted of sexually assaulting a female inmate at the Franklin County Regional Jail. Price was initially charged with third-degree sodomy, which is a Class D felony, but he pleaded down to a lesser charge of second-degree assault, a Class A misdemeanor, his attorney told Insider.
Judge Thomas Wingate sentenced Price on Friday to 12 months in jail, suspended for two years, but said Price could avoid jail time if Price enlisted in the military within 30 days, according to The State Journal of Frankfort, Ky.
"If you don't enroll in 30 days, you can report to the Franklin County Regional Jail," Wingate said. "You are under the gun, young man. You gotta do it."
Despite the judge's request, however, enlistments are subject to military regulations that would require Price to seek a waiver for his sexual assault conviction from military officials. The military has spent more than a decade struggling to limit sexual assault among troops and punish perpetrators.
A female inmate claimed that she was sexually assaulted and filed a lawsuit against Franklin County and several former jail staff, including Price, in July 2019.
According to the lawsuit, in January 2019, the inmate experienced a medical emergency and needed to be transported to the hospital.
"Though Price's shift was near its end, Price volunteered to transport (the inmate) to the hospital," the lawsuit explained. "Price transported (the inmate) alone, in violation of Jail policy and industry standards and practices."
Price stayed with the inmate for five hours at the Frankfort Regional Medical Center while making "sexually-charged comments" to her and talking about his connections to someone responsible for parole decisions at the Kentucky Department of Corrections, the lawsuit alleged.
On the way back to the prison from the medical facility, Price pulled the van he was driving over and assaulted the woman, according to the suit. The lawsuit alleges Price propositioned the inmate with an offer to help her get early release in exchange for a sex act, and then assaulted the woman while she was shackled.
When Price was interviewed about the incident he said he "made a stupid mistake" and "let a female inmate touch me inappropriately." He was later arrested after an investigation by jail officials.
"You're getting a huge break," Wingate said during Price's sentencing. "You made a terrible mistake, which I know personally cost the county money."
While judges are free to make these determinations, they carry very little legal weight.
Army Regulation 610-210 — which covers Army recruitment guidelines — says that an applicant is ineligible if "as a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, [they are] ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States."
Applicants can apply for a waiver, but must demonstrate "sufficient mitigating circumstances that clearly justify approving the waiver." The history of these waivers is murky, at best. During the War on Terror the military granted thousands of moral waivers for drug offenses, violent felonies and sex offenders. One such beneficiary, Steven Green, had three misdemeanor convictions before enlisting in the Army where he ended up at the center of a notorious war crime committed in Iraq in 2006.
Price's attorney told Insider that he previously served in the Army, which is why the judge decided on the terms of his probation.
"It is not uncommon for judges to put unique conditions like this based on the defendant that is in front of them and create conditions that will best serve them to stay on the straight and narrow," Whitney Lawson, an attorney for Price, told Insider. "It's just that this one happened to have the military element to it."
Lawson said Price has already started the process of renlisting, but it has been difficult.
"The problem is, you can ask ten people whether he can reenlist and in what branch and they'll give you nine different answers so we're trying to work through that," Lawson told Insider.
It's unlikely Price would be granted a waiver for his get-out-of-jail-free card, but this isn't the first or last time a judge or lawmaker will equate jail with military service. In December, Florida Senator Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg) filed a bill in the state legislature that would allow those convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors to enlist rather than go to jail.