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Texas, New Jersey Prison Staff Prosecuted for Cell Phone Smuggling

On October 20, 2008, the entire Texas prison system was locked down and searched for cell phones and other contraband. The search resulted in the discovery of hundreds of cell phones, chargers, SIM cards, tobacco stashes and weapons. [See: PLN, March 2009, p.29]. While the search was in progress, the first Texas prison guard charged with cell phone smuggling was sentenced.

Former Mark Stiles Unit guard Davisha Maxine Martin, 26, pleaded guilty to providing a prisoner with a cell phone and received a four-year sentence on October 27, 2008. The Stiles Unit, located in Jefferson County, is the Texas facility where the most cell phones have been discovered in the past year. Two hundred cell phones have been found at the prison, including 60 hidden in an air compressor delivered to the facility.

Also on October 27, 2008, two New Jersey prison workers were indicted on charges related to cell phone smuggling. State prison guard Lisa Whittaker, 32, was indicted for hindering apprehension and two counts of official misconduct. The hindering apprehension charge stems from Whittaker giving investigators false information about New Jersey state prison nurse Darlene R. Sexton, 44.

Sexton, an employee of Correctional Medical Services, was indicted on two counts of unlawful use of a cell phone in a correctional facility and four counts of official misconduct. Although the New Jersey Department of Corrections has fired prison guards for smuggling cell phones in the past, and prisoners have been indicted for possessing cell phones, these are the first prison employees indicted for phone smuggling.

The indictments alleged that Sexton smuggled cell phones to prisoners Craig Reed and Arlington King. Prison officials claim she provided several other prisoners with contraband and had an “unduly familiar relationship with King.” Whittaker was similarly alleged to have had an “unduly familiar relationship” with prisoner Angelo Burgos.

Sexton’s attorney noted that Sexton, who is free on $35,000 bail and faces up to ten years in prison, maintains her innocence and was never a public official, so she cannot be charged with official misconduct. The grand jury also indicted prisoners King, Reed, Burgos, Allen Essner and Richard Siaca with possession of a cell phone in a correctional facility.

Meanwhile, another Texas prison guard was caught smuggling cell phones, as well as marijuana and tobacco, into the Stiles Unit in February 2009. Eric J. Talmore, 24, attempted to bring the contraband into the facility in a container of rice; he was arrested and taken to the Jefferson County Jail.

Sources: Beaumont Enterprise,, ABC News, Associated Press, KBMT News

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