News in Brief:
Brazil: At least five prisoners died and around 40 others were injured in a fire at the Joao Pessoa jail in northeastern Brazil in October 2009. According to a military police spokesman, prisoners had set the fire to protest another prisoner’s transfer to a high-security facility.
California: In January 2009, Weusi McGowan was on trial for robbery and burglary charges in San Diego Superior Court. During the middle of his trial, McGowan pulled out a bag of his own feces that he had hidden in his clothing, rubbed it on his attorney and tossed it at the jury. McGowan was subsequently convicted of robbery and burglary, as well as two additional assault charges for throwing the excrement. He was sentenced on October 26 to thirty-one years in prison.
California: On September 3, 2009, police were called to the home of Michael O’Riley, a counselor at the Rio Cosum-nes Correctional Center. Police discovered that he had been holding his wife hostage, denying her food and money, and sexually abusing her for nearly two years. O’Riley was arrested on a variety of charges, including sexual assault and kid-napping.
Colorado: Cesar Corzo, a former lead therapist at the Ridge View Academy, a youth prison, and his girlfriend Laura Perzinski were charged with sex- and drug-related offenses in March 2009. Perzinski allegedly had sex with two teenage boys at the facility, while Corzo was accused of providing drugs to juvenile prisoners, letting them view pornographic materials on his computer, and showing them pornography during group sessions (including a video called “Barnyard Babes”). The couple denied the allegations. Corzo said the complaints were made in retaliation for expelling boys from group therapy sessions, and Perzinski noted that she had passed a polygraph test and that one of her accusers could not identify her in a photo lineup. **
Great Britain: In early September 2009, guards at the Ranby prison in Nottinghamshire discovered a copy of a master key made from a plastic knife during a routine cell search. The prison was placed on lockdown until all of the locks could be replaced at a cost of £78,000.
Hawaii: On October 16, 2009, James Gouveia was charged with manslaughter for killing fellow prisoner Monte Louis Young, Jr. at the Halawa Correctional Facility. Young and Gouveia were reportedly arguing on the prison yard on October 14 when Gouveia began punching Young in the head. Young was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Indiana: On October 6, 2009, unnamed prisoners at the Jennings County jail took three guards hostage, handcuffing and pepper spraying them. At least two of the guards were also stabbed. Officers from the Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police and North Vernon Police Department confronted the prisoners in a hallway, subdued them with Tasers and freed the hostages. One of the guards, Walter Peace, was flown to an Indianapolis hospital; another was treated and re-leased at a local medical center. The condition of the third guard was unknown.
Inner Mongolia (China): Qiao Haiqiang, Dong Jiaji, Gao Bo and Li Hongbin escaped from the No. 2 prison in Hohhot on October 17 by kidnapping and killing one guard and wounding another. The four prisoners, two serving life sentences and the other two awaiting death sentences, hijacked a taxi and escaped into the city. More than 6,000 officers participated in a region-wide search. On October 20, one of the escapees was shot and the others were captured.
Iowa: On October 20, 2009, Dennis Drake, the husband of Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, pleaded no contest to a charge of harassing a public official. Drake was accused of arguing with police on July 12 after they discovered his 19-year-old son, Rob, and six other teenagers drinking on the couple’s property. Rob Drake later pleaded guilty to possession of alcohol as a minor. Ternus denied any knowledge that her son and his college friends were drinking while on her property, saying she was asleep at the time. Dennis Drake was fined $65 and placed on probation for one year.
Kansas: John Manard was sentenced on October 5 to ten years in federal prison for felony possession of a firearm. Manard, who was already serving a life sentence in Kansas for murder, made headlines in 2006 when he escaped from the Lansing Correctional Facility in a dog crate. Toby Young, a female volunteer with the Safe Harbor Dogs program at the prison, had smuggled Manard to freedom in the crate. The two were discovered 12 days later living in a cabin in rural Tennessee. Young served almost two years in federal prison for helping Manard escape and giving him a firearm.
Kansas: On September 8, 2009, a disturbance erupted at the Reno County jail when one prisoner began complaining that he hadn’t received his medication. Other prisoners joined in and barricaded themselves in the dorm by pushing furniture against the doors. Guards used rubber pellet grenades to break up the protest. No injuries were reported, and property damage was minor.
Kentucky: Warren Lee Back, a federal prisoner at the Big Sandy Penitentiary who was once featured on “America’s Most Wanted” for a string of bank robberies, was shot and killed by a guard on October 29 while he was stabbing another prisoner. According to BOP officials, the fatal bullet was fired after Back ignored a warning shot and verbal commands to stop fighting. The prisoner who was stabbed is recovering.
Massachusetts: On October 5, 2009, Jason Ciampa was sentenced to 8 to 20 years in state prison for raping his 17-year-old cellmate in the Middleton Jail in 2005. After the teenager was placed in segregation with Ciampa for a disciplinary infraction, Ciampa fondled and digitally raped him. The teen could not scream for help because Ciampa was squeezing his genitals. The assault ended when the boy defecated. Ciampa, who had been convicted of molesting a 4-year-old boy in 1999, has a long history of mental illness and substance abuse.
Michigan: Officials in Van Buren County have passed an ordinance making it illegal for citizens to shout at prisoners in the county jail. The jail has no air conditioning and the facility’s barred windows, which are close to a public sidewalk, are left open in warm weather. Some prisoners’ families and friends would stand outside and hold loud conversations with jail residents. Violation of the ordinance, which goes into effect in December 2009, can result in up to 90 days in jail.
Missouri: James Lamont Moore, formerly a guard at the St. Louis Justice Center, was sentenced to two years in federal prison on October 30, 2009 for smuggling what he thought were drugs into the facility. Moore was one of three guards caught in a DEA sting. Justice Center guards Peggy Lynn “Pumpkin” O’Neal and Marilyn Denise “Peaches” Brown also were charged. O’Neal pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, while Brown has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
New Jersey: On September 2, 2009, Roy Solomon, a former prison guard at the Southern State Correctional Facility, pleaded guilty to smuggling cocaine and a syringe to a prisoner. He faces up to five years. Prison officials would not say how Solomon smuggled the contraband and have refused to identify the prisoner involved.
New York: On October 20, 2009, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, removed Westchester County Judge Joseph S. Alessandro from the bench and admonished Bronx Civil Court Judge Francis M. Alessandro. The judges, who are brothers, had violated ethics rules in connection with a loan that Joseph received for his re-election campaign in 2003. Joseph borrowed $250,000 from his campaign manager, failed to repay the funds, and then neglected to reveal the transaction on other loan applications. Although Francis failed to disclose that he had co-signed the loan for his brother as required by law, the Court of Appeals determined that admonishment was sufficient in his case because he did not actually benefit from the loan.
Tennessee: Sifrona Cotton, a guard at the CCA-operated Silverdale Detention Center in Chattanooga, was arrested on October 26, 2009 for drug possession and having sexual contact with prisoners. The incident allegedly took place on October 17, Cotton’s birthday. She was fired and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Cotton is the second Silverdale guard to be charged for having sex with prisoners; last June, Angel Harris was fired and charged with a similar offense.
Tennessee: Nashville police officer Mark Chesnut and his wife filed suit against CCA on October 30, 2009. Chesnut was shot five times during a traffic stop on June 25 by Joseph Jackson, Jr., a prisoner at CCA’s Delta Correctional Facility in Mississippi who had escaped earlier the same day when he was taken to an off-site doctor’s office. Jackson and his cousin, Courtney Logan, who helped him escape, were quickly captured after the shooting. Chesnut claims in his lawsuit that CCA is liable for his injuries due to the company’s failure to prevent Jackson from escaping.
Texas: On October 22, 2009, it was reported that Montgomery County Jail finance clerk Phyllis Ann Traylor, 51, had been indicted for stealing approximately $70,000 from prisoner trust accounts. She was charged with felony theft by a public servant and released on bond. Her husband, Michael Traylor, is employed as a sheriff’s deputy.
Texas: Michael Roy Toney spent ten years on death row for a suitcase-bombing murder he did not commit. He was released on September 2, 2009 after a state appeals court reversed his conviction upon finding the lead prosecutor had withheld evidence. The Attorney General’s office decided not to retry the case. A month later, on October 4, Toney was driving home in his pickup truck when it veered off the road and flipped over. Toney, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and the truck rolled over him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Texas: On October 26, 2009, Joel Lopez, Sr. was sentenced to life in prison for soliciting the murder of U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Hinojosa. Joel’s wife, Aracely Lopez-Gonzalez, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and testified against her husband in exchange for a 108-month sentence for her role in the plot. Lopez sought to have Judge Hinojosa killed in retaliation for the life sentence he received from the judge for drug convictions in 2006. He had approached another prisoner and offered millions for the hit. The prisoner agreed, but then reported Lopez and his wife to the FBI.
Utah: Former Cache County jail guard Steve Romero was sentenced on October 27 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. The offenses were discovered when detectives with the Internet Crimes Against Children task force traced an on-line advertisement for child porn to Romero. A search warrant was issued and investigators found 19 “child pornographic videos” on his computer. Romero was ordered to serve one year in jail and 36 months on probation; he also must register as a sex offender. Romero’s peace officer certification was revoked after his arrest. He had worked as a patrol deputy and jail guard for the Cache County Sheriff’s Office.
Washington: Beginning on November 2, 2009, prisoners at the Yakima County jail will be required to visit with friends and family via video conferencing. Jail officials implemented the new policy because video visits are purportedly safer and more efficient than in-person visits.
Washington: On October 26, 2009, a Kitsap County jail guard was fired for having sexual contact with both a prisoner in the jail and a former prisoner outside the facility. The incidents took place in July 2007, but were not discovered until August 2009. No charges were filed because the statute of limitations had expired. The Sheriff’s Department refused to disclose the guard’s name because he had not been charged with a crime.
** UPDATE: Cesar Corzo pleaded guilty to "introducing contraband in the second degree" and "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," both felonies, for bringing Hydoxycut, a weight loss supplement, into the facility. He was sentenced on February 8, 2011 to 90 days in jail and seven years of probation. All other charges were dismissed.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login