Hamilton County jailer charged with sexual battery placed on paid leave

Hamilton County jailer charged with sexual battery placed on paid leave

July 26th, 2011 by Beth Burger in News

A corrections officer with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office was charged with sexual battery this weekend after a woman alleged he assaulted her on a dance floor. Chattanooga police received a call around 2 a.m. Saturday and responded to the Palms Club at 6925 Shallowford Road. The victim said while she was dancing, Jerry Melbert approached her and then stuck his hand into her blouse.

A Hamilton County jailer was booked into same lockup he normally guards after being accused of molesting a woman on a dance floor, according to Chattanooga police.

Sheriff's Office Cpl. Jerry Melbert, 42, of Chattanooga, faces charges of sexual battery and assault after he allegedly pulled up the zipper on the woman's blouse and placed his finger in the woman's cleavage at The Palms, located at 6925 Shallowford Road.

The woman, who did not know Melbert, was at the club with her husband, who stepped in after Melbert's actions, according to the arrest report.

Melbert fled the scene and someone recorded his license plate number. Chattanooga police reviewed surveillance footage from the club before issuing a warrant for Melbert's arrest.

Sheriff Jim Hammond said an internal affairs investigation will be conducted. Melbert will be placed on paid leave until his first court date, which is set for Aug. 17, according to court records.

"We'll just have to let internal affairs do their thing and the courts do their thing," he said.

After Melbert's first court hearing, a determination will be made on whether to continue to pay him while he faces criminal charges, Hammond said.

Melbert has been employed at the sheriff's office since October 1998. He has a previous disciplinary record with the office, resulting in a demotion from sergeant.

Details on his disciplinary and employment record were not released Monday. In 2009, he made an annual salary of $39,376, according to records.

Melbert is the third sworn law enforcement officer at the sheriff's office to be placed on leave pending the outcome of criminal charges, Hammond said.

School Resource Officer Jeff Baker was charged with two counts of aggravated statutory rape in 2009 after reportedly having sex with a juvenile. His next court date is set for Nov. 15 in front of Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman, according to records. Baker remains on unpaid leave.

Deputy John B. Spaulding has been on leave for about a year facing an aggravated sexual battery charge in White County stemming from a January 2010 grand jury indictment.

The state Department of Children's Services recently filed a protection order in the case, which involves a juvenile. His next court date is set for Nov. 22, according to court clerks.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.