State currently employing criminal sexual penetration convict
February 09, 2018 05:44 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In December of 2016, Austin Wood pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual penetration in the fourth degree, having admitted to committing a felony in 2011.
Back then he was a deputy for the Valencia County Sheriff's Office.
Stacks of court documents, which include a civil suit filed by the family of the victim, detail what happened between the then-28-year-old Wood and a minor. He was charged with those crimes in 2012 – two counts of criminal sexual penetration and one count of kidnapping.
A grand jury indicted him in 2016.
But in between all the court dates, Wood landed a job with the New Mexico Department of Transportation. State officials confirmed Wood was hired in 2013 – before his plea, but after the investigation began – and he still works there now.
So for the second time in the span of a few days, KOB asked the NMDOT once again about its hiring process, the background checks prospective employees go through and what happens when a current employee has been convicted of a felony.
The department provided KOB with the following statement:
"We are looking into this situation and will take appropriate action. On background, we cannot discriminate against convicted criminals when hiring because of the legal requirements of the Criminal Offender Employment Act (NMSA 28-2-1). The Department also follows all hiring rules and laws."
The Criminal Offender Employment Act is meant to help rehabilitate criminal offenders, but it only applies to those with either non-convictions or those convicted of misdemeanors.
As part of Wood's plea agreement, he's on probation for three years and won't have to register as a sex offender unless he violates that probation.
At the end of it – barring any violations – the charges will be conditionally discharged.
Updated: February 09, 2018 05:44 PM
Created: February 09, 2018 05:18 PM
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