Three days before she was scheduled to go to trial, Valerie K. Lieteau pleaded guilty Friday to one count of aggravated assault.
Lieteau, 41, could have faced up to life in prison if she had been convicted of one of the crimes she was originally charged with, felony sexually battery of a minor. In agreeing to plead guilty to aggravated assault, also a felony, Lieteau now faces up to five years in prison when she’s sentenced May 31 by Canyon County District Judge Chris Nye.
In exchange for Lieteau’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop two counts of sexual battery of a minor and two counts of sexual contact with a juvenile inmate. Because of the amended charge is not a sex crime, Lieteau will not have to register as a sex offender.
The plea agreement was reached after prosecutors consulted with the victims and their attorney Bruce Skaug, who represents them in a pending civil case against Lieteau and the state Juvenile Corrections Department.
Lieteau allegedly took one 18-year-old inmate into a private examination room or other areas out of camera range between July 2009 and March 2010 and had sex with him at least 15 times. Lieteau, who was in her mid-30s at the time, also reportedly went to the boy's hometown at least twice and had sex with him there, after his release.
The victim told a police detective that Lieteau began by inappropriately touching his upper leg while he was at a dentist appointment and later progressed to sex.
She allegedly provided the boy with street drugs while he was at the center and stalked him by phone and through text messages after he left. The boy said he feared for his safety after she threatened him.
She had sex with a second inmate on "numerous occasions" beginning in December 2008, when he was 18, according to court documents filed in the civil suit. She also took him to a private examination room and to her home when he was granted home passes. The relationship lasted until February 2012, after the boy was released from the center, and when Lieteau no longer worked there.
The lawsuit accuses Lieteau of intimidating the second boy and threatening him with serious consequences — even after he was released from custody later in 2009 — if he told anyone about their sexual relationship.
The same boy was allegedly sexually abused by a female medical student intern at the detention center. The lawsuit accuses the intern, Esperanza Jimenez, and Lieteau of holding animosity toward each other over the boy.
The third victim Lieteau allegedly abused was 17 when they had sex at Lieteau's house while he was out on a pass. The boy later showed signs of mental and emotional distress.
Lieteau is the second former juvenile corrections worker to be convicted of criminal charges involving sex with inmates. Julie McCormick, now 34, the center's former director of safety and security, was convicted on a lewd conduct charge and sent to prison in March 2014. She was accused of engaging in sex with a 15-year-old boy in 2012. She is accused in the lawsuit of having sex with a second boy.
Revelations of sexual abuse brought Nampa's criminal investigation and led to the retirement of the center's superintendent and the firing of several employees. It also caused the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections to institute changes to protect the safety of youthful offenders at the 84-bed Nampa center, as well as those in Lewiston and St. Anthony.
The three boys are among 11 males and one female who allege that they were sexually abused by multiple workers at the juvenile center.