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Prisoner transport officer arrested in alleged rape

James Baldinger, 50. (McKinley Adult Detention Center)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 50-year-old jail transport officer was arrested Sunday for allegedly raping a female inmate he was transporting from Kentucky to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County.

Nashville, Tenn., resident James Baldinger was arrested in Gallup Sunday, and charged with rape and criminal sexual contact. He’s facing charges in Guadalupe County, where the rape allegedly happened.

Baldinger works for a national corporation called Prisoner Transport Services of America, which contracts with local jails and shuttles inmates around the country, according to New Mexico State Police spokeswoman Lt. Elizabeth Armijo.

According to the Guadalupe County Communicator, the victim told authorities that Baldinger first started touching her in Colorado. He then digitally penetrated her somewhere near Santa Rosa, she alleges. She reported the abuse once she arrived in Albuquerque.

Court documents obtained by the Communicator say that the victim was being held in a compartment behind Baldinger and another officer, who were driving the transport vehicle.

Male inmates were housed in a compartment behind the woman and she was able to write a note to one of the male inmates that said she was being abused on the trip. Investigators later tracked down that inmate and he corroborated the woman’s story, according to the Communicator.

Baldinger claims that the woman initiated contact, according to the Communicator.

Officers and FBI agents interviewed Baldinger Sunday and then arrested him. He faces state charges and may face federal charges. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will review the case, according to Armijo.

Baldinger’s attorney couldn’t be reached Wednesday.

Prisoner Transport Services of America was the subject of a comprehensive investigation by the Marshall Project and The New York Times last year. The news outlets found the private, for-profit prisoner transport industry, led by PTS of America, had a pattern of abusing and neglecting inmates.