Former Edna Mahan guard loses appeal of sex assault, misconduct convictions
Former inmates of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, located in Union Township, Hunterdon Conty, testify about alleged instances of sexual abuse and harassment before a committee in the New Jersey Senate in February.
Editor's note: This article contains graphic sexual descriptions.
A state appellate court has upheld the conviction of a former guard at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility on sexual assault and official misconduct charges.
Jason Mays, 48, of Hillside, is serving a 16-year sentence at the Mid-State Correctional Facility in Wrightstown.
In a trial before Superior Court Judge Angela Borkowski, Mays was found guilty on five counts involving two victims in the indictment brought by the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office and not guilty on 10 counts involving three other inmates.
While the appellate panel upheld Mays' conviction, the judges ruled that the case be remanded to Superior Court for resentencing. Borkowski had sentenced Mays to two consecutive eight-year sentences, but while Mays' appeal was pending, the state Supreme Court ruled that sentencing judges must place on the record the reasons for consecutive sentences.
Currently Mays is not eligible for parole until March 7, 2028.
The appellate panel rejected Mays' arguments that he was denied a fair trial because Borkowski did not order separate trials because of the different accusers and the judge did not allow him to present testimony about the accusers' criminal records into evidence so his attorney could attack their credibility.
In the trial, Mays claimed that the victims, all inmates in the facility's Cottage A, conspired to frame him in retaliation for disciplinary actions. But the appellate judges rejected that argument.
Mays also argued in his appeal that Borkowski should have let his attorney present evidence during the trial that the accusers had violated prison rules by using and distributing drugs. He also contended that Borkowski should have let his attorney challenge the credibility of the victims by questioning them about their criminal records.
Those arguments also were rejected by the appellate panel.
One of the victims, identified in court records by the initials B.D., testified that on July 4, 2016, Mays showed her a condom and suggested they go to Cottage A's beauty room during an inmate count.
Though B.D. said she wanted to remain in her room, Mays was afraid they would be caught, court papers say, so they went to the beauty room and had sexual intercourse.
Three months later, B.D. met with detectives from the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office, and she initially denied having sexual relations with Mays because she was frightened.
But later that day she reversed herself, and later, after she learned she would have to testify at the trial, she told prosecutors she had performed oral sex on Mays in the guards' bathroom during an inmate count.
Another victim, identified as C.L., testified she became uncomfortable when Mays began making comments to her, like "hey sexy." C.L. said she didn't want to report the comments because she didn't want to get into trouble.
C.L. also testified that while she was in her cell during inmate counts, Mays would touch her, and she once complied to his request that she touch his penis over his clothes.
C.L. testified she complied because she believed no one would believe her over the word of a guard.
She also testified that Mays wanted to meet her in the beauty room during body counts. Eventually she went with Mays to the beauty room, and they had sexual intercourse, court papers say.
Like B.D., C.L. initially did not tell investigators about having sex with Mays when she had been released to a halfway house because she was afraid she would be sent back to Edna Mahan.
But one week later, when the investigators returned, she told them she had not been completely truthful and said she had sex with Mays.
Edna Mahan, the state's only prison for women, houses up to 600 inmates and employs about 340 corrections officers, approximately 80% of whom are men.
Federal monitors likely will oversee the prison under an agreement reached with investigators who had found rampant sexual abuse at the facility, the state's corrections chief told lawmakers in April after announcing a $21 million settlement connected to the prison.
Federal oversight is part of a Department of Corrections consent decree – a type of settlement – with the U.S. Department of Justice, which issued a scathing report about abuse within Edna Mahan in April 2020.
The state corrections department also agreed to a nearly $21 million settlement to resolve more than 22 civil lawsuits filed by current and former inmates alleging abuse at the prison.
Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.