23 March 2022
A fired substance abuse counselor at Lino Lakes prison was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting an inmate in her office last fall.
Stephanie M. Chase, 47, of Lindstrom, Minn., was charged in Anoka County District Court with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of possessing contraband and three counts of witness tampering.
Chase was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court May 6. Court records did not list an attorney for her. Through a family member, Chase declined to comment.
She was hired by the state Department of Corrections in April 2019 and fired Feb. 27, department spokesman Nicholas Kimball said.
“People are in our custody while they work on transforming their lives,” Kimball said in a statement. “They have a right to be safe during that time. We take these allegations seriously and worked quickly to investigate and refer to the county to determine if criminal charges were warranted. We’ll cooperate fully with the ongoing case.”
According to the criminal complaint:
An inmate told a prison investigator that three inmates had consumed gummies from Chase containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
The investigator found sexually explicit e-mails to one of the inmates describing what “Jennifer Johnson” wanted to do with him. Phone calls to the inmate also were associated with the same name but actually came from Chase.
The inmate went to Chase’s office, where sexual encounters occurred Nov. 12 and Nov. 19 as another prisoner acted as a lookout at her request.
A third prisoner told a police detective that Chase coerced him and the lookout to take THC gummies, which put them at risk of punishment, and offered jobs to all three with her husband’s company upon their release.
Lino Lakes consists of medium- and minimum-security units with a population of about 1,300 men. The prison specializes in educational and treatment programs. In many cases, inmates serve the final phase of their incarceration at Lino Lakes, so they can receive the services they need before their release.