Yellowstone County detention officer charged with assaulting fellow jailer

Posted at 5:14 PM, Apr 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-30 19:14:53-04

BILLINGS – A jailer at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility spent a weekend on the other side of the bars earlier this month, after she was arrested for allegedly assaulting another jail employee off-duty.

Brittany Rae Malone, 33, a detention officer at the jail, was arrested on Friday, April 20, after reportedly slapping and punching Jacob Willoughby, a sergeant at the jail, reports Last Best News. Malone was held in the jail, at 3165 King Ave. E., until the morning of April 23, when she made an initial appearance in Justice Court and pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of partner or family member assault.

The arrest report said Malone and Willoughby “have had an ongoing sexual affair during the last year that ended approximately 1 month ago.”

Malone was released on her own recognizance, without posting a bond, and is on administrative leave while an internal investigation of the incident is being conducted, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder, whose office oversees operation of the jail.

According to an arrest report filed by sheriff’s deputy Gary Burke, he was sent to a gas station on Old Hardin Road in Lockwood a little before 5 p.m. on April 20, where a “physical disturbance” was underway. When he arrived there, Burke said, he was told by Willoughby that Malone had come to his residence on Alaskan Way, also in Lockwood, and had gotten into a “verbal disturbance” with Willoughby’s wife, Jessica, who also works at the jail, as a booking clerk.

Jacob Willoughby told the deputy that his wife and Malone left the residence in separate cars, and he followed shortly after in his vehicle. When Jacob Willoughby arrived at a gas station at 2816 Old Hardin Road, he reported seeing Malone get out of her car and lean into Jessica’s Willoughby’s car while yelling at her.

Brittany Malone, booking photo

Jacob Willoughby put himself between Malone and his wife’s car, according to the arrest report, at which point Malone slapped him in the face. Jessica Willoughby then drove away, the report said, but when Jacob Willoughby attempted to drive off, Malone jumped onto the side rail of his vehicle, reaching inside to grab the steering wheel.

Malone “then proceeded to repeatedly hit Jacob in the face and at one point grabbed his forearm and left a fingernail mark skin abrasion,” the report says. Both of them drove away from the gas station after that.

Linder said he couldn’t say much about what happened between Malone and Jacob Willoughby because it is “a personnel situation” and is under investigation. “Hopefully, it won’t take very long,” he added.

Asked if it would have been a policy violation for a sheriff’s sergeant to have a sexual relationship with one of his subordinates at the jail, Linder said, “I suppose it could be, if it affects working relationships within the facility.”

But there is no policy forbidding employees from seeing whomever they wish outside of work, he said. Asked if any other jail employees had complained about the relationship, or whether it had caused any problems at the jail, Linder said, “We’d been, I guess, made aware of allegations and they were investigated,” but no policy violations were discovered.

Asked what those allegations were, Linder said he could not say because it was a personnel matter.

Linder, asked what happens when someone who works at the jail is arrested, said, “We have the ability to keep people separate, regardless of whether they’re an employee or a danger to themselves or to someone else.”

Asked if Jacob Willoughby worked at the jail during the weekend Malone was incarcerated there, Linder said, “I don’t know what his schedule is, so I don’t know about that.” If Jacob Willoughby did work that weekend, Linder said, “we would have kept them separate. I mean, it’s a big place.”

Jail commander Capt. Sam Bofto referred all questions to Linder.

A trial on the first-offense misdemeanor assault charge was set for Aug. 21. If found guilty, Malone could be fined as much as $1,000 and jailed for up to a year.