A county correctional officer is facing a trio of misdemeanor charges after allegedly slapping an inmate at the Humboldt County jail.
Kathleen Musson, who was hired by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer in 2001, appeared in superior court Monday, facing misdemeanor charges of the unnecessary assault of a person by an officer, treating a prisoner inhumanely or oppressively and simple battery. Together, the three charges carry a maximum jail sentence of 18 months and a maximum fine of $16,000.
The alleged incident occurred in December 2009 when, according to Deputy District Attorney Elan Firpo, Musson allegedly “slapped the face of an inmate as a form of discipline for having one sleeve of his jumpsuit off while in his dorm.”
Humboldt County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Brenda Godsey said Musson has been on administrative leave since the alleged incident.
“The sheriff’s office became aware of (the alleged incident) when another correctional officer, who witnessed it, reported it to their supervisor,” Godsey said. “The inmate followed that with a grievance. The sheriff’s office then initiated the investigation, and conducted a criminal investigation in partnership with the (district attorney’s) office.”
Godsey said that, upon its completion, the criminal investigation was forwarded to the district attorney’s office. Godsey said she could not comment on the administrative investigation because it is a personnel matter.
Musson, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is being represented by Justin Buffington of the firm Rains Lucia Stern PC, which is based in Pleasant Hill and specializes in representing peace officers.
The firm is perhaps best known for its representation of Johannes Mehserle, a former BART police officer in the San Francisco Bay Area, who stands accused of murdering Oscar Grant III, after allegedly shooting and killing the unarmed man on Jan. 1, 2009.
Buffington, a Humboldt State University graduate, was not immediately available for comment Monday.
Musson is scheduled to return to court for a status conference on July 14.