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Federal Probation Officer Sexually Abused Clients, Sentenced to Ten Years

U.S. probation officer Mark John Walker, 52, supervised federal prisoners on parole, probation and other forms of supervised release in Eugene, Oregon from May 1987 until July 2009. Now, however, it will be Walker who is on supervised release after he completes a 10-year federal prison sentence for sexually assaulting women under his supervision.

In the summer of 2009, supervisors confronted Walker about accusations that he had inappropriate contact with a woman he supervised. He was suspended for five days. When he returned to work he denied the allegation, but abruptly retired.

On July 22, 2009, the FBI commenced a criminal investigation into Walker’s behavior. Several months later, Walker admitted that he had kissed a probationer but claimed he did not promise her leniency for sex.

In a voicemail to investigators, Walker said it was clear that the FBI was seeking an indictment so he was going to “put it to bed a little earlier” by killing himself. Walker then unsuccessfully attempted suicide by asphyxiation, according to court records.

On July 16, 2010, Walker was indicted for inappropriate sexual contact with five women he had supervised, lying to the FBI, intimidating and threatening witnesses, and falsifying a record to obstruct the FBI’s investigation. At least fifteen women accused Walker of inappropriate contact dating back to the 1990s, according to prosecutors.

Due to Walker’s long career as a federal probation officer, all of Oregon’s federal judges recused themselves from his case and Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline was brought in from Alaska.

Following the indictment, Walker was arrested and released on his own recognizance with a GPS ankle monitor. On July 22, 2010, however, he cut off the tracker and drove to a cemetery to commit suicide near his father’s grave. He was arrested before he could make his second suicide attempt.

On April 28, 2011, Walker pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated sexual abuse and four misdemeanor offenses related to willfully depriving the victims of their constitutional rights and bodily integrity.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, federal prosecutors dismissed several other charges including making false statements, falsifying records and witness tampering.
Walker and the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to make a joint sentencing recommendation of ten years in prison followed by a five-year term of supervised release. Walker must also register as a sex offender under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Several of Walker’s victims had been sexually abused before he took advantage of them, or were otherwise vulnerable due to suffering from mental illness or drug addiction. “It makes it particularly insidious,” said Laura Fine, an attorney for one of the women.

Walker kissed the women and touched their breasts, buttocks and inner thighs without their consent in order to gratify his own sexual desires. He pulled down one victim’s pants, held her down on a bed and forced her to have sex during an official home visit while wearing his badge and carrying his government-issued firearm, according to federal prosecutors. The victim, who was unable to escape, was “scared to resist because of his power,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Holsinger. “She knew he could make her life miserable.”

Walker told one woman that he wasn’t abusive like the other men in her life, even as he forced her to relive “the rape and molestation of her past,” said Holsinger.

The victims did not report the abuse to authorities because they were afraid no one would believe them, and Walker had the ability to put them in prison or have them punished in other ways. “They were pretty much powerless to say no,” Holsinger stated.

On July 18, 2011, Judge Beistline adhered to the joint sentencing recommendation and imposed a ten-year prison term.

“Walker’s betrayal of trust is staggering. Walker betrayed his fellow officers and abused his power by sexually abusing the vulnerable people he had sworn to help,” said U.S. Attorney Dwight C. Holton. “These victims have been heard. I hope his lengthy prison sentence makes clear that we will hold accountable those who breach the public trust.”

Not to be outdone, Arthur Balizan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon, also weighed in. “We have a very high standard when it comes to the actions of federal officers,” he stated. “This defendant’s criminal actions did great harm to women who were already very vulnerable. That is intolerable.”

In addition to the criminal charges, Walker faces six federal lawsuits filed by his victims, which remain pending. Several of the suits also name the United States as a defendant. See, e.g.: Benn v. Walker, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 6:11-cv-06047-TC.

Sources: The Oregonian, U.S. Department of Justice press release (April 28, 2011)

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Related legal case

Benn v. Walker