Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios on Friday rejected the "absurd" attempt to dismiss charges against a man accused of molesting inmates at the women's prison in Topeka because they didn't consent to the abuse.

Tomas Co, 73, a former dental lab instructor at the prison, faces five charges of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate. Rios scheduled a jury trial for Jan. 27.

Co's attorney, Chris Joseph, asked the court to dismiss the case because of ambiguous wording in the state law that prohibits prison employees from “engaging in consensual sexual intercourse, lewd fondling or touching, or sodomy." The law is silent on nonconsensual acts.

Students under Co's supervision say he touched their breasts and genitals, stuck his tongue in a woman's ear, told dirty jokes, and made a body pillow in the likeness of an inmate. One of the accusers said Co removed the pockets from his pants and compelled her to rub his penis.

Because the women said they didn't consent to the alleged abuse, Joseph said, basic grammar suggests the state law shouldn't apply.

Rios wouldn't let him exploit the loophole.

"The absurd result," the judge said, "would be for an adult who doesn't consent and is incarcerated, a corrections officer or parole officer or anyone else could do whatever they want."

Joseph said Co, who appeared in court Friday, shouldn't be held accountable for the Legislature's bad policy.

"It's madness," Joseph said, "but that's what the Legislature did."

Prosecutors have relied on the state law, which dates to the 1990s, to prevent offenders from claiming an inmate agreed to sexual relations. The law makes clear the inherent power dynamic between inmates and prison workers prevents inmates from providing consent.

Roger Luedke, a prosecutor in the district attorney's office, said Joseph's twist on the application of the law "misses the point," which is to remove consent from consideration.

Co worked at the Topeka Correctional Facility, the state-run women's prison, from 2013 until he was fired in December. The prison's warden and a federal auditor recommended Co be fired in 2017, but a top-level official at the Kansas Department of Corrections allowed him to stay.

The timeline for the accusations of abuse range from February 2014 until October 2018. A warrant for Co's arrest was issued Feb. 1, after Gov. Laura Kelly's administration took over.

Co taught a class that was touted by corrections officials as providing a skill that would allow inmates to get a job after leaving the prison. The class taught them how to make dentures. Women feared they would be removed from class or otherwise punished for complaining about abuse.

“I don’t think he’s a very nice man,” one of Co’s students told an investigator. “You know, I think he uses his position of power. ... I do feel that he’s a predator. OK, I don’t feel that. I know he’s a predator. You know, like ... he just is. He’s just hella perverse and inappropriate.”