Jessika Orange concedes she made some bad choices the past few years, starting with an intimate relationship she struck up with Tykia Bland. Having a child with one of the city's more prolific crack dealers was not a brilliant move for a King County juvenile-detention officer.
Their child was born out of wedlock on Dec. 7, 2004. Eight days later, the familiar Bland, then 21, something of a crack poster child to undercover narcotics cops, was stopped in Pioneer Square, where he was carrying four grams of rock in his mouth. That led to his 14th felony or misdemeanor criminal conviction in six years, dating back to his days as a 15-year-old juvenile offender.
But Orange, 36, now a suspended detention officer, insists she didn't meet Bland, now a four-strike adult felon, during their days at juvie hall. "No, it was after that," she says, declining to give details. "I can't really talk about it. I still could lose my job."
She is one of more than 16 employees of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention investigated for sexual misconduct. They all might have made bad choices, but some allegedly broke the law. Seven, including Orange, are on administrative leave as officials wrap up their probes at the county's adult jails in Seattle and Kent and the Youth Services Center in Seattle.
Three male adult corrections officers were charged earlier after allegedly having sex with, or sexually touching, female inmates. At a Tuesday, July 25, press conference, county and city officials revealed more details of the juvenile cases. Thirteen officers had been investigated, four cases remain active, and one female officer was being charged with having sex with two male juveniles.
Lydia Jo Korolak, 34, faces four counts of custodial sexual misconduct dating back to 2002, the second year of her employment, according to King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng. She allegedly had oral sex and intercourse with at least two juveniles. "Each received candy, food, and other privileges during the time of the sexual relationships," says Maleng.
The prosecutor, along with King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske, spoke about jail culture, a vulnerable captive audience, and the temptations of power. They noted the allegations involve only a few guards. The county employs 611 adult and juvenile corrections officers. But it is, nonetheless, in Maleng's words, especially "intolerable to have someone in a position of authority take advantage of a young detainee."
Charging papers note that Korolak allegedly told one juvenile victim that she "lived in a condominium in Kent with her mother but would kick her mother out if she needed to. She also expressed a desire to have a child with" the juvenile.
Orange, who did have a child with a former juvie inmate, claims her case is different. It is one of the four cases still being reviewed by investigators, although there is no indication she'll face criminal charges.
"I didn't know him as a juvenile," she said of Bland during a recent telephone chat. But when they met, Bland already had been convicted of seven juvenile felonies, almost all for selling coke on Seattle streets. Still, she says, "we talked about marriage."
When their child was conceived, in the spring of 2004, Bland had just notched his third adult felony for crack dealing. He had revolved through the system, getting short-term sentences in almost all cases, including the one resulting from his bust eight days after the child was born.
Court records show Bland and Orange had a combative relationship. She obtained a restraining order against him, and each accused the other of assault. Their case is now in family court as a custody dispute. Orange indicated she was aware from the start it was not going to be a healthy affiliation. Bland, she says, choked her into unconsciousness when she was three months pregnant, and threatened her with a tire iron in her eighth month.
"Bad choice? Very bad choice," she says. But, though the fate of her job hangs in limbo, her domestic life has improved, she says. Four months ago, Bland went to prison for more than three years. It was criminal conviction No. 15—and, perhaps, counting.