Chief deputy appears in court on sexual assault charges - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Chief deputy appears in court on sexual assault charges

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By Heartland News 

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - The chief deputy of the Saline County Sheriff's Department accused of four counts of sexual assault involving a minor appeared in court Friday in Harrisburg.

The 43-year-old school board president is also charged with four counts of official misconduct.

Todd Fort walked into court in shackles and a jailed issued jumpsuit.  He was surrounded by several jailers and bailiffs, people he once worked alongside.  Sheriff Keith Brown who is Fort's boss was also on the security detail.

Bryan Drew is Fort's attorney. Outside the court room, he asked people to keep an open mind as the case makes its way through the court system.

"He hasn't been convicted of anything yet, although many times in these sorts of situations people want to jump to conclusions and rush quickly to judge," Drew said. "All we ask is you wait until all the evidence has come out."

Fort's arrest has had a big impact on the Saline County Sheriff's Department, where he served as chief deputy. Sheriff Keith Brown says he met with staff and talked about reorganizing some administrative duties. That includes part-time help from an investigator in the state's attorney office.

"He graciously is going to give us a hand with some reports, kind of as an advisor on potentially some criminal investigations that maybe ongoing," Brown said.   

Brown says some projects even had to be put on hold due to Fort's arrest. He says the cases Fort was involved with are now under review.

Fort's first appearance was supposed to take place in the Saline County Courthouse.  But Sheriff Brown says an hour before the hearing, the judge moved the location.

"When you look at security, when you look at safety, when you look at all of those things involved the secure court room here at the detention center is a safer and more secure location," Brown said.

The family of the alleged victim and Fort's family packed in the room with standing room only.

The judge read his charges which outlined the alleged sexual acts he allegedly committed with female under the age of 18.  The judge also read his rights and the penalty for the charges which are 15 years in prison for each sexual assault charge and five years in prison for each official misconduct charge.

The state made a motion ordering Fort to commit a DNA sample of blood, hair, and a cheek swab.  The judge set a hearing for the motion on Thursday, if the defense and prosecution don't agree on how it will be carried out.

According to the arrest synopsis, dated Monday, the alleged 17-year-old victim told investigators she had sex 10 times with Fort at his home in Harrisburg. She says it all took place after she turned 17.  Court records also show the alleged victim told police Fort was her superior at the Saline County Sheriff's Office.

Hartland News spoke with the alleged victim's family. They said thank you for the support and asked folks to keep their family in prayers. Her father also asked, if there are any other victims, to please come forward.

Fort is currently in the Jackson County Jail on a $250,000 bond.  His preliminary hearing is set for August 19 at 1 p.m.

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