Northumberland County prison guard gets maximum sentence in sexual assault case
SUNBURY - Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor made his concerns known about the county prison Monday morning in sentencing one former guard to the maximum penalty for allegedly having sex with female inmates and rejecting a plea agreement for a co-defendant because he said the punishment was too lenient.
"This is another black eye for Northumberland County Prison, and behavior like this won't be tolerated or condoned by this court," Saylor said in sentencing former correctional officer Brandon W. Fraim, 23, of 904 N. Shamokin St., Shamokin, to 9 months to 3 three years in a state correctional institution on four counts of institutional sexual assault, a third-degree felony offense.
In addition to prison time, Fraim was ordered by Saylor to pay $400 in fines and costs, was ordered to avoid all contact with the victims and was told to write a letter of apology to each of them.
Fraim received concurrent sentences on each of the four counts, and the sentence became effective immediately.
Saylor imposed the most serious sentence on Fraim under the standard range. He could have been sentenced instead to house arrest, probation or up to 9 months incarceration.
Fraim pleaded no contest to the charges on April 28. While not admitting guilt, his plea acknowledged the commonwealth had enough evidence to prove that he had sexual intercourse with four female inmates between September and November.
Saylor rejected the plea agreement for Gregory Allen Cupp, 59, of 224 Orange St.,
Northumberland, who entered a guilty plea in the case on April 28. Saylor said it called for a sentence on the lower end of the standard range, which he opposed due to the serious nature of the charges.
Saylor ordered Cupp's case to be placed on the trial list. Cupp's attorney, David Noon, of Sunbury, said he plans to negotiate a new plea agreement for his client and doesn't anticipate the case going to trial.
Cupp remains free on bail.
The county prison has had a string of headline incidents dating back to a 2004 grand jury investigation that alleged seven guards were involved in acts of corruption and conspiracy at the facility.
Fraim and Cupp were determined not to be sexually violent predators by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Board, but are still required to register as sex offenders for 10 years under Megan's Law.
Special Counsel Michael Seward, who represented Fraim, argued that since his client wasn't deemed a sexually violent predator, which is a mitigating circumstance, he should have been granted a lesser sentence. Seward cited state two Superior Court cases and a plea agreement reached by a former correctional officer at the State Correctional Institution in Muncy, (a women's facility), who was initially charged with institutional sexual assault but received no jail time under the plea agreement.
But Saylor, who noted Megan's Law cases primarily involve children, not female prisoners, said the institutional sexual assault charge filed against the former correctional officer at SCI-Muncy was dismissed under the plea agreement.
Prior to being sentenced, Fraim apologized and said he took full responsibility. He told the court he is a military policeman in the U.S. Marine Corps and is scheduled to be deployed to Afghanistan in March. He is employed part time by a local contractor.
Saylor wasn't moved by Fraim's apology or his military background.
"This is very disturbing conduct," the judge said. "Female defendants who are sentenced by the court to prison shouldn't be subjected to sexual assault. You were being paid by the county while engaging in sexual activity and protected the other defendant in the case. You protected each other."
Cupp and Fraim were charged in January by county Detective Francis Bower with four counts each of institutional sexual assault.
According to a criminal complaint, Fraim is accused of having sexual intercourse with three female inmates at Northumberland County Prison, while Cupp allegedly had sex with four female inmates. The offenses occurred in September, October and November in the trustee quarters, where the female inmates are housed, and a bathroom in the same area.
An affidavit of probable cause states that Fraim told a female correctional officer that he gave three female inmates cigarettes, money and gifts in exchange for sexual favors. Cupp is accused of fondling the breasts, backs and buttocks of four female inmates.
The former correctional officers resigned in early December after being suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Fraim was a prison guard since Aug. 1, 2007, while Cupp was employed as a correctional officer since Dec. 8, 2004.