McGee placed in protective custody for own safety

McGee placed in protective custody for own safety
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former Republican state Sen. John McGee is due to be confined by himself in a Boise jail cell for a month and a half, a precautionary measure taken by Ada County law enforcement officials who fear media attention to his crimes and his high public profile could endanger his safety were he housed in the general inmate population.

McGee, 39, was sentenced Tuesday to at least 44 days in jail for disturbing the peace, after allegations he sexually harassed a 25-year-old legislative staffer.

Fourth District Magistrate James Cawthon also ordered McGee, of Caldwell, to serve another 44 days for violating terms of his probation stemming from a 2011 drunken driving conviction, though he may be able to opt for an inmate labor detail to satisfy that term.

An Ada County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, Andrea Dearden, said Wednesday that McGee has undergone an assessment all new inmates receive during their first 48 hours of confinement. He isn't considered a threat to himself or others, she said, which normally would result in his placement in a minimum-security, 95-bed dorm, overseen by one staff member.

Instead, he's being held in a separate area with about a dozen cells, away from potential harm.

"That's our top priority," said Dearden. "Given his status, the high-profile nature of his previous employment, and coverage of the crimes he's been accused of and/or pleaded guilty to, he needs to be in protective custody."

Others who may receive similar protective custody include police officials and judges accused of crimes or even more-obscure people whose alleged offenses may outrage inmates, putting their safety at risk.

McGee's downfall from his post as the No. 4 state senator — he spent less than two years as the chamber's majority caucus chairman — was swift after his Father's Day 2011 arrest for drunken driving and taking a stranger's vehicle.

He pleaded guilty to the DUI, while the felony car-theft-related charge was dropped in a plea deal.

Then, last February, McGee quit the Senate after being accused of sexual harassment by the female employee, who worked in his fourth-floor legislative office in the Idaho Capitol.

The four-term lawmaker and father of two also lost his job at West Valley Medical Center, where he was the hospital's marketing director.

On Tuesday, Cawthon chastised McGee for violating his probation conditions, saying he was "floored" to see him back in court. The judge rejected a proposed deal between prosecutors and the defense that foresaw only five days in jail, on grounds it wasn't sufficient punishment.

In addition to jail time, McGee must undergo counseling and attend classes about having healthy relationships and boundaries.

Now that he's behind bars, McGee's wife, Hanna, and other family members can visit him twice a week via the Ada County Jail's video visitation system at no cost, the same privilege granted all minimum-security inmates.

Should they want to see him more often, they must buy additional, 25-minute visits for $6 each, Dearden said.

McGee will be allowed outside his cell periodically for recreational opportunities as well as into a communal area where there is a telephone and a television. There's no TV in his cell.

In the unlikely event the protective-custody area where McGee is being held fills up, it's possible he could be required to share his cell with another inmate, but only after jailers deem the pairing appropriate, Dearden said.

McGee will remain in protective custody for his entire sentence, provided he cooperates, she added.

"If you don't act correctly, that's when we get to a more-restrictive custody," she said.