SALT LAKE CITY – The Latest on a prison inmate charged with raping a woman at a Utah wildfire (all times local):
An Idaho prison inmate charged with raping a woman while working at a wildfire base camp in Utah has invoked his right to a speedy trial.
Prosecutor Kevin Daniels said 27-year-old Ruben Hernandez made his first court appearance in Utah’s Sanpete County in a short hearing on Wednesday.
Daniels says he did not formally enter a plea, but the request to move quickly typically indicates a defendant disputes a charge. He is due in court for an evidence hearing next week.
A defense attorney newly appointed to the case did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Hernandez was part of a program common in Western states where minimum-security prison inmates are released to help fight wildfires. He is accused of assaulting a base-camp worker Aug. 29 after she rejected his advances.
Idaho is scrutinizing its program allowing prison inmates to help battle wildfires after one was charged with raping a woman working at a remote base camp in Utah.
Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray says they’ve returned five crews to prison as they review which inmates are allowed to serve, the training they receive and how they are deployed.
Meanwhile, inmate Ruben Hernandez is set make his first court appearance Wednesday on a felony rape charge alleging he assaulted the woman after she rejected his advances.
He was part of a 10-person crew who cooked and did janitorial work. They were supervised by two Idaho correctional officers.
Most states in the U.S. West have similar programs allowing low-level offenders to be temporarily released to aid in firefighting efforts.