FAIRVIEW, Okla. – A prosecutor said Tuesday six former jail inmates and drug defendants will testify an Oklahoma sheriff used his influence to demand sex from them, while a defense attorney told jurors at the sheriff's trial that those women were lying or consented.
In his opening statement to jurors, Prosecutor Jim Swartz said Burgess asked a drug court defendant to meet him at an Oklahoma City motel, which the woman feared would violate travel restrictions imposed on her by the court.
The prosecutor said the woman agreed to go after Burgess told her: "I'm the sheriff. I'll take care of that."
Under state law, a prisoner cannot legally consent to sexual relations with a jailer or anyone else who controls the conditions of the prisoner's confinement.
Defense attorney Steve Huddleston said in his opening statement that Burgess never forced anyone to have sex. "This is a lie," Huddleston said. "Never did happen."
Huddleston said four of six women who have accused the sheriff are plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Burgess and stand to benefit financially if he is convicted. He said five of the women are convicted felons.
Several female offenders testified at a preliminary hearing they feared they would be sent to prison if they did not provide sexual favors to Burgess. One woman testified she and Burgess had sex two to three times a week over 14 months.
Burgess, 56, has pleaded not guilty to 36 charges of rape, rape by instrumentation, kidnapping, sexual battery and oral sodomy. The charges carry a maximum combined term of 470 years in prison.
The evidence against Burgess surfaced in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 former jail inmates alleging sheriff's employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts.
Burgess is free on $50,000 bail.
The trial was moved to Major County because of intense media coverage. Fairview is 73 miles from the Custer County seat of Arapaho and 120 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.