The Oregon woman who was jailed as a material witness after accusing a prison guard of sexual abuse says that law enforcement and the court system “have victimized me as much as he has.” Brandy Buckmaster, 41, is being held until Brian Balzer goes to trial, an experience she told the Guardian has been deeply traumatic, particularly since Balzer remains free on bail.
The Oregonian reported earlier this month that Buckmaster, whom they didn’t name, was being held after prosecutors said they feared she wouldn’t show up to testify in Balzer’s trial. Buckmaster is a former inmate at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, where she’s served several stints since 1996 for drugs, burglary and identity theft. She spent some of that time in the prison’s mental health unit, and says Balzer, 42, coerced her into sexual activity. Sex between prison guards and inmates can’t be consensual, under both state and federal law.
In an exclusive interview, Buckmaster told the Guardian she’s a survivor of childhood sex abuse and has struggled with drug addiction for decades. After she was released from prison, she disclosed the alleged sexual activity with Balzer to a staff member at a halfway house where she was living. Balzer has been charged with sexual misconduct and introduction of contraband, for allegedly plying her with perfume samples; he posted bail almost immediately and remains free while awaiting trial.
Soon after disclosing the alleged abuse, Buckmaster relapsed. Prosecutors and her probation officer said they were having trouble locating her for Balzer’s original trial date this summer. Washington County Deputy District Attorney Dan Hesson issued a material witness for Buckmaster and had her taken into custody. Unlike other states, Oregon has no limit on how long material witnesses can be jailed. Buckmaster has been in jail since August 16 and will likely remain there until Balzer’s trial on October 4.
In the meantime, Buckmaster told the Guardian, she’s in county jail with almost no money in her commissary account and no access to victim’s services of any kind:
“I feel like [prosecutors] have victimized me as much as he has,” she said.
Speaking through a thick glass wall in a 4ft-by-4ft visitation room and dressed in an orange prison uniform, Buckmaster said she barely had enough money in her jail account to call her boyfriend or purchase hygiene products from the commissary, and the district attorney’s office hasn’t offered help. Prosecutors have also publicly named her in court documents, instead of protecting her privacy. The Guardian does not usually identify victims of sexual assault.
Buckmaster told the newspaper, as she told the Oregonian, that she’s always planned to cooperate in Balzer’s trial. Her attorney has been pushing for her to be allowed to give a video deposition and then released with an ankle monitor. But Dan Hesson, the deputy district attorney who ordered her jailed, won’t agree.
“It is a terrible idea that she is in jail,” Hesson told the newspaper. “But I can’t find a better alternative.”