A former Johnson County, Arkansas, Deputy has received six years of probation after pleading guilty to a felony charge of third degree sexual assault while in uniform. According to 40/29 News, Robert G. Retford, 55, could have faced up to 10 years in prison for the crime. The significantly-reduced sentence was allegedly part of a plea bargain.
Retford was charged with deviant sexual activity while in a deputy uniform on September 10, 2016. Johnson County Sheriff Larry Jones said that he suspended Deputy Retford immediately following an anonymous call reporting the incident. Four days later, Retford resigned from his position. He was held in Pope County pending his trial due to his connections with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. According to a sheriff’s office press release, he was arrested on a charge of Sexual Assault in the Third Degree on November 28, a charge which the release states “is a Class C felony charge which under Arkansas law can carry a term of up to 3-10 years in jail and/or a fine of 0-$10,000.”
The investigation was carried out by the Arkansas State Police at the request of Sheriff Jones, also due to Retford’s connection to the sheriff’s office.
Retford’s victim, a woman identified as Shanna, explicitly asked that her name be used in reporting the incident, as she says that she wants everyone to know what she claims happened.
Content warning: the following contains a first-person account of sexual assault, which may be disturbing for some readers.
According to Shanna, two Johnson County deputies responded to her home for a domestic dispute; she was arguing with her boyfriend and neighbor, and somebody called the police. Deputy Retford offered to get her away from the situation, and she agreed. She got into the police car with him, and they left the scene.
Shanna told police investigators that while they were in the car together, Retford put his hands down her pants, and made her touch him over his pants.
“This man raped me,” she said.
Following the groping, Retford, still in uniform, still in his police car, drove her to a Clarksville motel. He did not attempt to stay with her, but gave her his card with his name and number on it, and told her to call him. The next morning, away from her home with only what she’d had on her at the time, she called him from the hotel lobby. Retford picked her up while on duty and drove her to a friend’s house.
According to a report from 5 News Online, an investigative affidavit states that he threatened to kill her and throw all of her relatives in jail if she didn’t comply to his demands.
Shanna claims that when they arrived at the house, he raped her, either with his flashlight or his baton. Her recollection of events is not good; she admits that she was on drugs when the assault happened. She can’t remember if she told him to stop.
“I don’t know, I guess I just kind of froze up. I don’t think I said anything, I don’t think I could speak, I don’t know.
“After that he made me drink his urine. He told me to enjoy being covered in his p***, that’s what he said.”
The next day, a friend took her to the hospital. Staff there called the Fort Smith police, who contacted the State Police to begin an investigation.
Stories like Shanna’s are regrettably common; domestic violence leaves victims vulnerable, and easy targets for authority figures who are supposed to be helping them.
“I think he should be in jail locked up and I don’t feel other women and girls out there are safe. He’s not a good guy, he’s scary and he’s dangerous.”
Retford told investigators in November that he and Shanna were sexually involved, but claimed that the contact was consensual, and that he did not threaten her.
Retford was ultimately sentenced to six years of probation and must register as a sex offender.
After the plea, the prosecutor said that the sentence was fair, as Retford had no prior history, and also stated that the victim was satisfied.
[Image by Johnson County Sheriff’s Office/Handout]