Sept. 15, 2011 -- A Wiccan prison chaplain who allegedly hatched a plan to fake a hostage situation with an inmate is now facing close to 60 years in prison, accused of sexual assault and providing narcotics to an inmate.
Jamyi Witch, 52, of Omro, Wis., who became the first Wiccan prison chaplain in the state amid controversy in 2001, is accused of sexual role-playing with an inmate, plying him with sleeping pills and telling the prison she was assaulted so both individuals could be transferred to a new facility.
On Aug. 10, Witch, who changed her last name from Welch because of her religion, told police that an inmate came into her office, barricaded the door with shelving and her wheelchair, and held her hostage, according to court documents. The situation ended peacefully, with the inmate being removed after being fed sleeping pills by Witch.
Two weeks later, however, police said they intercepted a letter from the inmate to his mother describing a different scenario in which Witch hatched a plan for a fake hostage situation in order to get them both transferred to other facilities, according to the criminal complaint.
The inmate told investigators that he went to see Witch a few times the week of Aug. 7 to tell her that he had been jumped by inmates and was unhappy at the prison. She suggested he come to her office, pretend to take her hostage, and to act erratically, including calling Witch his mother, he told investigators.
After considering it, the inmate agreed to go to her office on Aug. 10, and together the two barricaded the door. The inmate then asked Witch for sex, and she complied, flashing him, bending over to let him touch her, and performing oral sex on him, according to his statements to investigators.
As prison guards became aware of the situation and yelled through the door for the inmate to let Witch go, the two began role playing that she was his mother, according to statements by Witch and the inmate. Witch then gave the inmate 15 narcotic sleeping pills that she had by prescription, and as the inmate became drowsy, she sang lullabies to him.
After police discovered the letter, they questioned Witch about the incident. She then told investigators that the inmate had sexually assaulted her, forcing her to expose her breasts and perform oral sex and be the recipient of oral sex. She told the investigator that she had not provided the information to police earlier because she didn't want to be the subject of other people's jokes, according to the complaint.
Witch's attorney declined to comment for this story, adding that Witch was not available to comment, either.
Witch was arraigned in court on Sept. 2 on charges of second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff, delivery of schedule I or II narcotics and delivering illegal articles to an inmate. She faces as much as 58 1/2 years in prison and $160,000 in fines if convicted.
This is not the first public controversy for Witch, a mother of two and Girl Scout leader who has a master's degree in theology from the University of Wisconsin. According to a 2001 article in the Los Angeles Times, Witch volunteered for years counseling inmates in Wisconsin prisons until applying for the job of chaplain at the Oshkosh Correctional Facility in 2001. When she was awarded the position by the prison chaplain, there was a public outcry -- including by then-representative Scott Walker, now Wisconsin's governor.
"Not only does she practice a different religion than most of the inmates -- she practices a religion that actually offends people of many other faiths, including Christians, Muslims and Jews. Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to accept this hocus-pocus," Walker said at the time.
His office did not return calls for comment on the charges.
The prison's then-warden, Gary McCaughtry, had high praise for Witch.
"Jamyi is an outstandingly approachable person -- somebody that I wouldn't mind approaching on spiritual matters myself," he told the L.A. Times.
Witch told police she had been unhappy at the prison and did not like her co-workers. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections has put Witch on administrative leave while it conducts an internal investigation, according to a spokeswoman.
Witch is free on bail and is due back in court Sept. 22 for a preliminary hearing.