After interviewing current and former members of the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, investigators and agents of the Virginia State Police, and current and former jail prisoners, the grand jury found that over the course of five years, from 2004 to 2009, there had been repeated cases of unprofessional and criminal misconduct by members of the Sheriff’s Department. Such acts of misconduct, however, were mostly too old to be prosecuted.
Still, the grand jury probe yielded perjury indictments against two officers – deputy Glenn Brett Stokes, 39, who, the grand jury concluded, lied about matters related to sexual contact with a female prisoner; and former deputy Mary Lois Markland, 58, who, according to the grand jury, lied about having provided cigarettes to prisoners. Stokes and Markland were both arrested, and Stokes was suspended without pay.
The grand jury found credible evidence that jail employees had facilitated the passing of messages and other items between prisoners in different cell blocks – without necessarily being aware of the contents – a practice deemed inappropriate at best and a serious dereliction of duty, compromising the safety and security of staff and prisoners alike, at worst. The grand jury also found that officers had illegally smuggled drugs into the jail, at least in 2004.
The grand jurors reserved their most damning language for findings related to sexual contact between male officers and female prisoners. They described such contact as “ranging from casual flirtation to carnal knowledge to behavior so perverse as to be outside the scope of the criminal law.”
The grand jury concluded that the presence of drugs and contraband, in addition to sexual misconduct at the jail, reflected “glaring failures” on the part of supervisors and administrators in addressing deficiencies at the facility. Still, while noting that serious problems persisted, the grand jurors commended Sheriff Lane Perry for making much-needed reforms – including installing video cameras in the jail – after more than a dozen law enforcement officials, including then-Sheriff Frank Cassel, were indicted in 2006 in connection with a scheme to misappropriate drugs, guns and money seized as evidence in criminal investigations. [See: PLN, June 2008, p.42].
The grand jury cited a need for additional reforms, including that the Henry County Sheriff’s Department reach out to other agencies for training related to internal affairs investigations.
Former deputy Mary Markland was convicted of perjury on August 30, 2010. “The cover-up was worse than the conduct” that Markland was accused of, the judge said, noting it was unclear whether giving tobacco products to prisoners constituted a crime. Lying to the grand jury, however, was definitely a criminal offense. Former deputy Glenn Stokes is scheduled to go to trial on December 14, 2010.
Sources: Roanoke Times, Henry County Special Grand Jury Report (Feb. 1, 2010), Martinsville Bulletin
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