A former Boscobel prison guard was sentenced to 18 months behind bars Monday in Grant County Circuit Court. Cheryl A. Bartels, 59, of Prairie du Chien, had previously plead guilty to four counts of delivery of illegal articles to an inmate and eight counts of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff.
Bartels was initially charged with 23 felony counts, eight counts of delivering illegal articles to an inmate and 15 counts of second-degree sexual assault. Last December she plead guilty to four counts of delivery of illegal articles to an inmate and eight counts of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff.
During her statement at Monday’s sentencing hearing, Bartels said that she made a stupid choice, embarrassing herself, her friends, family and co-workers.
“I do ask for some leniency on your part,” she said to Judge Craig Day. “What I did was wrong. I know that.”
However, WSPF Warden Gary Boughton said what Bartels did was planned and deliberate, and deserved to be punished.
“In this case, Ms. Bartels’ actions were intentional and predatory,” Boughton said. “Ms. Bartels selected and groomed an incarcerated person over a two-year period who was half her age. This is not about two people falling in love, but of a staff person using her authority over an inmate.”
Bartels was working as a correctional officer at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility (WSPF) in Boscobel when she became involved in a sexual affair with a male inmate.
“I destroyed a lot of people’s lives, my husband, my grandchildren, my children…I lost all of that,” Bartels said.
WSPF officials contacted the Grant County Sheriff’s Department on June 15, 2015 after they discovered an iPod touch smart phone in the inmate’s cell after he was moved from General Population to Segregation after getting in a fight with another inmate.
Authorities recognized Bartels from nude photos of herself on the iPod. They allege she had repeated sexual contact with the inmate identified only as EAG in a prison closet and break room.
Investigators questioned Bartels and say she admitted to giving the inmate the iPod, as well as two t-shirts and three pairs of socks. She told investigators that she and “EAG” started exchanging letters about a year earlier and they “began talking sexual in the letters to each other,” according to the criminal complaint. Bartels considered the inmate to be her boyfriend and they were planning “to be together” after he was released from prison.
Bartels said she gave the iPod to the inmate in March. The two would exchange the device once or twice a week and they eventually started exchanging sexual photos and videos. Investigators found several photos of the two on the device.
Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker recommended that Bartels be sentenced to three years in prison and three years of supervision after her release. Riniker said sexual relationships between correctional staff and inmates pose security risks for both parties, as well as the public.
Judge Day didn’t go as far as Riniker had requested, but did sentence Bartels to 18 months in prison and one year of supervision upon release. She must also register as a sex offender.
“No mater how well you’ve done in the rest of your life, you are placed in a position where this just can’t happen,” Day said. “And it saddens me deeply, Ms. Bartels, as a human being and as a member of society, to take you out of productivity.”