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Nebraska Assistant Warden Avoids Prosecution for Sexually Abusing Prisoner, Pleads Guilty to Lesser Charge and Gets a Year in Jail

by Benjamin Tschirhart

On October 3, 2022, the same day her jury trial was scheduled to begin for sexually abusing a prisoner, a former assistant warden with the Nebraska Department of Corrections (DOC) reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. Admitting to a charge of “unlawful visitation or communication with an inmate,” Sarah Nelson Torsiello, 46, was then sentenced to a year in the Lancaster County Jail on November 30, 2022.

She was hired by DOC in 2003. Climbing the ranks, she was Assistant Warden at the Reception and Transfer Center in Lincoln when an investigation by the State Patrol culminated in her arrest and resignation in January 2022. DOC’s then-Director, Scott Frakes, made a statement expressing zero tolerance for “inappropriate behavior involving a member of the inmate population.”

What was Torsiello’s allegedly inappropriate behavior? Kissing a 37-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence for a Douglas County murder and “fondling each other’s genitals.” Her arrest affidavit also alleged that she purchased a “burner” cellphone to communicate with her prisoner paramour on his own contraband cell phone. That gave rise to a lesser charge that she pleaded guilty to: unlawful “visitation or communication” with a prisoner.

More serious charges of contraband smuggling were apparently never filed. The sex abuse charges were also later dropped in exchange for the guilty plea, allowing Torsiello to avoid registering as a sex offender.

Her original charges carried a possible penalty of 23 years in prison, plus the lifelong stigma of compulsory sex offender registration – a burden carried by over 767,000 Americans, including 5,145 Nebraskans, often for crimes less severe than those committed by the former assistant warden.

At Torsiello’s sentencing, defense attorney Bob Creager requested a probated sentence, to be vacated upon her successful completion of the probation. But 3rd Judicial District Judge Jodi Nelson wasn’t having that. She said anything less than a year behind bars would “depreciate” Torsiello’s crime. With good-time credit, Torsiello could be free in 190 days. 

Source: KETV, Nebraska Examiner, Safe Home

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