Carroll jail guard charged with sexually abusing child

Joe Torres Hernandez, 62, the county's 2004 Correctional Officer of the Year and a translator for inmates, is suspended without pay


A Carroll County jail guard - the county's 2004 Correctional Officer of the Year - was charged yesterday with sexually assaulting a minor while off duty and suspended without pay, officials said.

Correctional Officer 3rd Class Joe Torres Hernandez, 62, of the Taneytown area was arrested on six counts of third-degree sex offense and one count of child abuse, according to state police at the Westminster barracks.

The victim, a 17-year-old Taneytown-area girl who is not related to the accused, was abused over a 36-month period between August 1999 and July 2002, according to prosecutors and the state police.

The Sun does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

The investigation was begun Aug. 31 by the Carroll County Advocacy and Investigation Center, formerly known as CASA, based upon information received from Child Protective Services of Carroll County, police said.

The six counts represent two incidents per year, said Deputy State's Attorney David P. Daggett, supervising attorney for the investigation center.

Hernandez has worked at the Carroll County Detention Center since May 1996. He was named the sheriff's department's Correctional Officer of the Year in May 2004, honored for meeting deadlines and striving to improve his performance through creativity when dealing with complex issues.

A retired New Mexico police officer, Hernandez is fluent in 18 Spanish dialects and served as a translator, as liaison to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and as an instructor in a Spanish training program.

In September 2004, Hernandez was named one of Carroll's most beautiful people for his work translating for inmates at the detention center and running a children's Bible study group at his church.

Sgt. Phillip S. Kasten of the sheriff's department said the detention center warden was notified about 12:40 p.m. yesterday that investigators for the advocacy and investigation center had obtained an arrest warrant for Hernandez.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said last night that Hernandez has been suspended without pay, pending resolution of the felony charges.

"That will continue until there's a resolution," Tregoning said, declining further comment. "It's going to be up to a court of law."

Hernandez was released without bail yesterday by a District Court commissioner.

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