A retired Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail corrections officer has been convicted of sexually assaulting two inmates while they worked in the facility’s laundry room last year.
Henry Rhim, 64, of Newport News, was found guilty Monday of two counts of carnal knowledge of an inmate, one count of object sexual penetration by force and two counts of sexual abuse of an inmate by ja ail employee, according to online court records.
The judge found Rhim not guilty on one count of object sexual penetration by force.
Rhim appeared in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Monday. The trial included testimony from the two assault victims, two other former inmates, two VPRJ corrections officers and one former corrections officer, a James City County investigator and Rhim himself.
During the trial, the two victims testified that they were “trusties” — inmates given jobs inside the jail — and worked in the jail’s laundry room with Rhim as their supervisor for several months in mid-2017.
Both inmates said Rhim approached them from behind and stuck one hand down the back of their pants and into their underwear on multiple occasions between April 2017 and July 2017.
Rhim retired in August 2017, he said in court. He was arrested Oct. 12.
During another incident, both women testified they were putting away linens in the laundry room storage closet when Rhim ordered them to drop their pants and underwear and touch their genital areas.
Trusties wear white two-piece uniforms, not orange jumpsuits like other jail inmates.
The allegations against Rhim surfaced after jail staff opened an investigation into reports that one of the victims had sex with a male inmate in the laundry room, when Rhim was supposed to be supervising the trusties.
The woman was disciplined for breaking jail rules by having a sexual relationship with another inmate, but she disclosed information about the assaults after investigators prompted her to tell them “everything” that happened in the laundry room.
The victims were cellmates for a period of time but said they never discussed the assaults with each other because they were embarrassed. Both women also said they did not report Rhim to the authorities or fight back because they were fearful they would lose their trustie jobs.
“He said that if I were to ever tell anybody, they’d never believe me, and that he’s been at the jail many years,” the women disciplined for inappropriate relations with another inmate testified.
Both victims have multiple convictions stemming from crimes involving “lying, cheating and stealing,” such as grand larceny and forgery, which defense attorney Kim Woo argued impacts the credibility of their testimony.
Defense witnesses, which included a former corrections officer and two former inmates, described the two victims as “troublesome” and “two-faced.”
One of the women has since been released from jail, and the other has been transferred to another facility in Goochland.
While a criminal history is often used to discredit witnesses in court, the victims and their convictions were an important part of this particular case, prosecutor Maureen Kufro said.
The women were inmates under the care and control of the jail’s corrections officers, Kufro said, and also could face criminal repercussions if they fought back during the assault.
“I don’t need another charge,” one woman testified. “You can’t touch a guard.”
“In that atmosphere, your guard is your guard — they’re in control,” she added minutes later while on the witness stand.
For Judge Michael McGinty, part of the case boiled down to whether the witnesses had anything to gain by lying about the assault. The victim who had sex with another inmate had already been punished for breaking the rules. The other inmate has been released from jail.
Rhim’s retirement was also pending before the allegations came to light.
He also said both women’s testimonies were “compelling” and he believed they were telling the truth.
Both women teared up at certain points in their testimony, taking brief moments to collect themselves before continuing.
“This is where the court looks at the credibility of witnesses,” McGinty said. “The court doesn’t see what they’re have to gain. This whole investigation [into sexual relations between inmates] concluded quickly.”
Rhim denied the allegations throughout the investigation by James City County Police and also during his testimony in court.
Rhim is currently out on bond and is scheduled for sentencing at 9 a.m. Nov. 19 in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.