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Nine California Guards Fired For Prisoner Assaults

Nine guards at California's maximum security Salinas Valley State Prison (SVSP), including some belonging to the Green Wall" satanic gang of rogue guards, were fired on November 8, 2004 as a disciplinary action for allegedly assaulting a prisoner and then conspiring to keep the beating secret. A tenth official was demoted.

The assault occurred in October 2003, when prisoner Henry Stephen Serrano refused to leave an exercise cage and return to his cell. Guard Walter Faulkner, leading the charge to remove Serrano, told other guards in a surveillance tower to turn off the video cameras and recording devices before they entered Serrano's cage. Serrano was then pushed to the ground, where other guards proceeded to beat him up. One guard kicked Serrano while he was pinned down, according to former Warden Ed Caden, who since retired and became a whistleblower. Afterwards, the guards and their superiors conspired to cover up the beating. None of the staff filed the required use of force" forms. The supervisors instructed the guards to lie to investigators. When the assault was referred for prosecution, the Monterey County District Attorney's Office was unable to press charges because none of the guards would talk.

Those fired included Sergeant Fernando Chavez and guard Faulkner, who both had been disciplined before in 2001 (one year 5% pay cut) for covering up another beating and for being members of the Green Wall" guards' gang. Others fired included Lt. Clarence Vanhoose, Sergeant Robert Parin, and guards Kevin Rawhoof, James Benefield, Darrell Mackinga.

The 2001 prior incident, implicating Faulkner and Chavez, resulted in an investigation by the State Inspector General (IG) a prison watchdog group. But the IG's findings were watered down by then Warden Anthony LaMarque, who personally supported the Green Wall" gang. They were his kids," said superseding Warden Caden. LaMarque did little with [the IG's reports]." The facts of the 2001 incident were that Faulkner and Chavez had pummeled a prisoner, planted a weapon (a filed-down toothbrush) in his cell, and then perjured themselves about it in a July 2001 preliminary hearing in Monterey County Superior Court. However, the State Personnel Board overturned the disciplinary actions and restored all back pay. The Green Wall" association's hallmark is the legendary code of silence" wherein guards band together to cover up their criminal activities inside California's prisons. (See: PLN, Sept. 2004, p.17, Green Wall" Code of Silence Said to Rule California's Prisons.)

Caden was Chief Deputy Warden at SVSP in 2001, but did not know about the incident until he became acting Warden in February, 2004. Upon finding out, he immediately began an investigation, asking for support from California Department of Corrections (CDC) headquarters as well as from the IG. The response was telling. CDC headquarters removed him to Sacramento without explanation and terminated his executive status. They're not getting tough," he said. They're putting on a show." He then went public with his demotion and retired from his 28 year CDC career. Caden went on to criticize the Governor's newly appointed Secretary for Corrections, Rod Hickman, accusing him of paying lip service to reforming the state prison system. Hickman countered in September 2004 that prison employees will be held to the highest level of accountability," adding that Caden was removed because he wasn't meeting the needs" of SVSP.

Five of the nine were fired for direct participation in Serrano's beating; the remaining four were fired for failing to report it. In addition to the nine fired guards, a number of others were served with disciplinary actions. But the powerful guards union (CCPOA) has a track record of getting 60% of all guard firings reversed. In 1996, eight guards were fired for viciously beating thee dozen prisoners debarking from a prison bus at Corcoran State Prison. All were later reinstated with back pay, including an Associate Warden who was allowed to retire.

Sources: Sacramento Bee; Monterey County Herald.

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