Prosecutors have dismissed charges against a Sedgwick County detention deputy accused of fondling two male inmates. The district attorney and the sheriff said it’s possible that charges could be re-filed.

In November 2012, prosecutors charged James Conklin, 54, with two counts of unlawful sexual relations, both felonies. The charges accused him of “lewd fondling” of two inmates in September and October of 2012. In the past, authorities said that the charges involved incidents at the work release center; according to the charges, the alleged victims were jail inmates.

One of the charges was dismissed in July and the other on Sept. 10, court records show.

In a statement Wednesday, Conklin’s defense attorney, Sal Intagliata said: “James Conklin honorably served his department and his community for almost 20 years as a deputy jailer. He and his family appreciate the willingness of the District Attorney’s Office to listen and review his case closely and on its own. We are most thankful for that office’s decision to dismiss the case. It was the right decision.”

Later, Intagliata added: “We continue to maintain that James Conklin did not commit these offenses.”

In a statement, District Attorney Marc Bennett said that the case against Conklin “was dismissed because a key witness is in custody in another jurisdiction and is unavailable to testify. The case was dismissed without prejudice which means it can be re-filed at a later time.”

Sheriff Jeff Easter said an alleged victim in the case is in a federal penitentiary and can’t get to Wichita to testify. When that person is available to testify, it’s possible the charges could be refiled, Easter said.

Conklin remains on unpaid suspension, and he has filed for retirement, Easter said.

“We are conducting an internal investigation” into the circumstances that led to the charges, Easter said.

That internal investigation had to wait until the criminal case was completed, he said.

Conklin was the second deputy within a year to be charged with sex crimes against inmates. Former Sedgwick County detention Deputy David Kendall is still facing multiple charges, ranging from aggravated sodomy to misdemeanor sexual battery.

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The Wichita Eagle – By Tim Potter and Stan Finger