FAIRVIEW, Okla. --
Opening statements began Tuesday for the trial of a former sheriff accused of using his influence over jail inmates and drug court defendants to demand sex from the women.
Former Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess has pleaded not guilty to 36 charges of rape, rape by instrumentation, kidnapping, sexual battery and oral sodomy. He resigned in April.
Prosecutor Jim Swartz said six former jail inmates and drug court defendants will testify against Burgess, who faces up to 470 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Swartz said that in one case Burgess asked a drug court defendant to meet him at an Oklahoma City motel. Swartz said she feared this would violate travel restrictions imposed by the court, but she agreed to it after Burgess told her: "I'm, the sheriff. I'll take care of that."
Defense attorney Steve Huddleston said during jury questioning that the backgrounds of the women making the accusations will be closely considered at trial.
Burgess, 56, was a member of a drug court panel that decided which offenders were allowed into a rehabilitation program and which were removed from the program and sent to prison.
Several female offenders testified at a preliminary hearing they feared they would be sent to prison if they did not provide sexual favors to Burgess. One woman testified she and Burgess had sex two to three times a week over a 14-month period.
Under state law, a prisoner cannot legally consent to sexual relations with a jailer or anyone else who controls the conditions of the prisoner's confinement.
The evidence against Burgess surfaced in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of 12 former jail inmates alleging sheriff's employees had them engage in wet T-shirt contests and offered cigarettes to those who would flash their breasts.
Burgess, who is married, is free on $50,000 bail.
The trial was moved to Major County from Custer County because of intense media coverage. Fairview is 73 miles from the Custer County seat of Arapaho and 120 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.