Sex with Prison Inmate Nets Oklahoma Rape Charges for Nurses

Two contract nurses working at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington have been charged with second degree rape of an inmate.  

Details of the Case

According to a Department of Corrections investigation, nurses Kristina Marie Knutson, 30, of Pauls Valley, and Debra Joanne Harms, 48, of Noble, are accused of each having a sexual relationship with a prison inmate. Prison spokesman Jerry Massie identifies the alleged victim as 33-year-old Craig Kruger, an inmate serving a life sentence for a first degree murder conviction.  

Kruger was incarcerated in the Joseph Harp Correctional Center from October 2007 through September 2010, but has since been transferred to the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. According to a Cleveland County probable cause affidavit, Kruger admitted to sex with Knutson and Harms while he was an inmate at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center.  

Investigators say both Knutson and Harms admitted to several sexual encounters with Kruger in a treatment room at the Cleveland County facility.  Knutson said her relationship with Kruger lasted from February 2010 until July 2010, and Harms said her relationship with the convicted murderer took place in July and August of that same year.  

Both Knutson and Harms are listed on Kruger's call log at the Dick Conner Correctional Center, and both women have allegedly written to him there, with letters mentioning their relationships. Though all parties involved are adults, and the sexual encounters were apparently consensual, the two contract nurses have been charged with second degree rape under Oklahoma statutory rape laws.  

According to 21 O.S. § 1111, sexual intercourse is an act of rape in Oklahoma if the act is perpetrated by an employee or contractor of an agency in authority over the victim:

"Rape is an act of sexual intercourse . . . . Where the victim is under the legal custody or supervision of a state agency, a federal agency, a county, a municipality or a political subdivision and engages in sexual intercourse with a state, federal, county, municipal or political subdivision employee or an employee of a contractor of the state, the federal government, a county, a municipality or a political subdivision that exercises authority over the victim." (read more here)

  Because Kruger is incarcerated, he is legally unable to consent to sex with any employee or contractor of the prison, including the contract nurses. Though the age of consent in Oklahoma is 16, state law makes it illegal for certain individuals to have sex with those over whom they have authority or supervisory capacity.  

Is the Law Constitutional?

One Oklahoma defense attorney is challenging the law after a Hennessey basketball coach was arrested for having sex with an 18 year old student.  The lawyer asserts that the alleged victim has falsely accused his client, but contends that even if her allegations were true, she was 18 at the time she claims the encounters took place, and therefore should be considered a legally consenting adult. (read more about the law here)

Whether or not the authority clauses of the state's rape law are eventually overturned, statutory rape in Oklahoma is a strict liability offense, meaning that there are no mitigating circumstances.  Sexual intercourse with those legally unable to consent, even if they think they can consent, is considered second degree rape.  

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