March 6, 2020
Katie Bernard
Kansas City


A former Kansas prison employee will remain out of jail on $50,000 bond awaiting his appeal after he was sentenced in Shawnee County District Court Friday for unlawful sexual relations with an inmate.
Tomas Co, who taught women at the Topeka Correctional Facility how to make dentures, was initially charged with five counts of unlawful relations. He was sentenced to 32 months in jail for one of those counts after a jury acquitted him of the other four in January.
He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for 25 years.
The count he was convicted on, his attorney Chris Joseph said, involved a woman’s allegation that Co brushed her hands and touched her knees in an inappropriate manner.
Joseph said he filed an appeal in the case and Co will remain out of jail on bond until the completion of the appeals process in one to two years.
“This case stands as an example to all. If there is evidence that a person has abused their position of power and broken the law, we will hold them to the same standard of conduct that guides us all,” said Shawnee County District Attorney Michael Kagay in an email to The Star.
“Regardless of their position or means, we will do everything we can to enforce the law and hold that person accountable for the protection of our victims, and our community as a whole.”
Kagay added that he encouraged all women who had been victims of such crimes to come forward.
An investigation into Co’s behavior originally started in October 2018 after he was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with several women in the jail. He was fired the following December and criminally charged in February 2019.
Attorneys on both sides have said the investigation was flawed. Joseph told the Star in January that the investigator lied to witnesses and failed to preserve evidence.
Five women testified in June about his actions including forcing women to rub his penis through a hole in his pocket and creating a body pillow using a photo of one of the women.
The women said the conduct was not consensual.
Because of this, Joseph said, the charge of unlawful sexual relations did not apply to any of Co’s actions. State statute defines unlawful sexual relations as consensual contact between an employee and an offender.
This argument, Joseph said, will be the basis of Co’s appeal. He said he will argue that the Shawnee County judge committed an error by removing the question of consent from consideration for the crime.
“I genuinely think we’ll prevail on appeal,” Joseph said. “I don’t think this crime matches the statute.”
He added that, while it is bad policy to include the word consensual in the statute for unlawful sexual relations, that is a question for the state legislature to resolve not the courts.

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