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Oklahoma Lawmen Charged with Sundry Crimes

In separate incidents, five Oklahoma prison and jail guards have been charged with crimes ranging from contraband smuggling and assault to murder.

Former Sequoyah County jail guard Jarrod Anthony Yates pleaded guilty on October 2, 2008 to violating the civil rights of an unnamed detainee by punching, kneeing and stomping on the prisoner’s head and face, resulting in a frac-tured orbital socket and other serious injuries. On January 14, 2009, Yates was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and three years supervised release.

On February 2, 2009, Oklahoma County Detention Center guards Gavin Douglas Littlejohn and Justin Mark Isch were indicted by a federal grand jury for causing the death of Christopher Beckman, a prisoner at the facility.

Beckman had been arrested for drug possession, drunk driving and other traffic offenses, according to court records. On May 26, 2007, he suffered a seizure in his cell. Jail staff restrained him and transported him to the medical clinic.

The federal indictment accuses Isch of using Beckman’s head to push open a steel door; it also accuses Littlejohn of repeatedly striking Beckman in the head and face, causing his death. The two guards were charged with federal civil rights violations resulting in death by assault and excessive force.

An Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) statement said Sheriff John Whetsel had asked state and federal officials to investigate the “accident,” and declared that it had “long been the desire of the OCSO to find out the truth about this incident.”

The OCSO was “disappointed that these two former employees have found themselves in this situation,” according to the statement. Despite facing life in prison without the possibility of parole for causing Beckman’s death, Isch and Littlejohn were released on bond following their arraignment. They have not yet gone to trial.

The U.S. Dept. of Justice had criticized the Oklahoma County Detention Center in 2008, citing violence by prisoners and excessive force by guards.

In an unrelated case, on April 15, 2009, federal officials reported that former Choctaw County, Oklahoma deputy sheriff Ben Milner was indicted on three counts of violating civil rights and two counts of obstructing justice.

The indictment alleges that on October 31, 2005, deputy Milner assaulted a man during a traffic stop. It also states that he assaulted two prisoners at the Choctaw County Jail on October 18, 2007, causing them bodily harm. Milner then falsified reports to provide false justification for his excessive use of force.

Finally, on February 26, 2009, former Bureau of Prisons guard Monte Walbaum was sentenced to one year on probation and 50 hours of community service for smuggling cigarettes, sunglasses and protein pills to prisoners at the Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma.

At trial, Walbaum had tried to sell the jury a sympathy defense, claiming he committed the offenses because he was a single father raising a daughter and caring for his elderly mother. The jurors didn’t buy it. He has since paid the government $17,000 in proceeds netted from his contraband smuggling operation.

Sources: U.S. Department of Justice press releases, The Edmond Sun, UPI, Associated Press, PRNewswire

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