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Nine Florida Prison Guards Indicted, Fired

Nine Florida state prison guards were indicted July 10, 1998, on federal conspiracy and civil rights violation felony charges in the death of a prisoner who was chained, beaten, and left to bleed to death. A tenth guard, presumably the one who broke the "code of silence" to testify on his peers, pleaded guilty the same day to a single conspiracy count.

According to the federal indictment, the incident began on August 18, 1997, when John Edwards, an HIV+ prisoner, allegedly bit a guard at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution. Edwards was transferred to the Charlotte Correctional Institution in Fort Meyers, Florida, as a result of the biting incident.

According to the indictment the nine guards plotted to injure, threaten and intimidate Edwards in retaliation for biting their colleague. They allegedly kicked and beat Edwards, slamming him into walls while in restraints. After three days of brutalizing, Edwards tried to commit suicide by slashing his arm.

He was then moved to a psychiatric unit, chained naked to a metal bed, and made to endure what would turn out to be his final beating. Edwards slowly bled to death over the next twelve hours, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Malloy.

Later, the guards tried to hide their criminal acts and prepared false reports to show a "proper" use of force, according to the indictment. One of the guards is also charged with threatening and intimidating a witness in an effort to prevent the beatings from being reported.

The nine indicted guards were immediately fired. Joe Papy, regional director of the Florida DOC, called it an isolated incident, "It is an example of criminal acts from nine people. And we do not tolerate it," he said.

The nine charged were: Zephyerhills guards Gary T. Owen and Joseph P. Delvecchio, and Charlotte guards Capt. Donald B. Abraham, Capt. Kevin W. Browning, Michael J. Carter, Thomas J. McErlane, Paul R. Peck, Robert M. Shepard, and Richard Wilks.

Tampa Bay Tribune, Palm Beach Post

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