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Press Release

Former Maryland Correctional Officer Pleads Guilty to Federal Civil Rights Violations

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland

Greenbelt, Maryland – Former Correctional Officer Owen Nesmith, age 54, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to federal charges, including three counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and to making a false statement, all related to his sexual contact with three victims who were incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution Jessup.  

The guilty plea was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Secretary Carolyn J. Scruggs of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

According to his guilty plea, Nesmith was employed as a Correctional Officer (“CO”) Lieutenant at Maryland Correctional Institution Jessup (“MCIJ”).  Nesmith admitted that from 2005 to 2017, he deprived three incarcerated individuals of their civil rights by sexually assaulting them.  Specifically, in February 2005, Nesmith followed Victim 1 back to his cell.  No other inmates were present in the housing unit at that time.  Nesmith told Victim 1 that he wanted Victim 1 to perform a sex act on Nesmith, which he did.  Victim 1 did not consent to this act, which was a deprivation of rights under color of law.

As detailed in the plea agreement, in July 2015, Victim 2 needed an identification badge (“ID”) and Nesmith offered to take Victim 2 to the ID office.  On the way to the office, Nesmith grabbed Victim 2’s genital area, then shut a gate in the area and told Victim 2 that he needed to conduct a strip search.  After removing Victim 2’s pants, Nesmith sexually assaulted Victim 2, causing him pain and bodily injury. 

Nesmith further admitted that in December 2017, he engaged in a sex act with Victim 3, without his consent, when Victim 3 came to Nesmith’s office to discuss obtaining a job in sanitation.  At that time, Nesmith was the acting lieutenant of the building and Victim 3 needed Nesmith’s approval to obtain that job. 

Finally, Nesmith admitted that when questioned by law enforcement, he falsely stated that he had never had any inappropriate relationships or sexual contact with any inmates while he was at MCIJ.

Nesmith is the last of 20 defendants charged with federal racketeering and related charged to plead guilty.  Five other correctional officers/employees previously pleaded guilty to their roles in a racketeering conspiracy. 

Nesmith faces a maximum of 17 years in prison for deprivation of rights under color of law and for making false statements.  U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis has not set a sentencing date.

U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Barron thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Sean R. Delaney and Katelyn Semales, who are prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit and

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Marcia Lubin
(410) 209-4854

Updated June 20, 2023

Public Corruption
Civil Rights