California: State prison guard Domingo Garcia, 40, pleaded guilty on March 24, 2010 to smuggling contraband into the California State Prison-Sacramento. Garcia admitted that he took bribes to deliver phones and drugs to prisoners. He was also found with a handgun, 50 rounds of ammo and two knives in his car on prison grounds; he said they were his personal weapons and he had forgotten to remove them. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 26.
Florida: On March 13, 2010, Thomas Althoff, 33, was booked into the Hernando County Jail for driving on a suspended license. Jailers discovered him snorting Xanax a few hours later. He admitted to smuggling the pills into the jail by concealing them in the fat rolls of his stomach, and was charged with possession of contraband.
Florida: Sylvester Jiles, 25, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on March 23, 2010 for trying to break into the Brevard County Detention Center. That’s not a typo. Jiles, who pleaded guilty in a manslaughter case and received 8 years probation last year, returned to the jail on August 31, 2009, three days after he was released, and asked to be locked up because he feared retaliation from the victim’s family. When guards refused, he attempted to climb over the facility’s fence and became caught in barbed wire. The incident, which involved trespassing charges, violated Jiles’ probation and resulted in the 15-year sentence.
Illinois: Cook County jail guard Dwayne Jones, 25, had 10 grams of marijuana, a cell phone and charger, earphones and several DVDs, including episodes of last year’s Discovery Channel series Cook County Jail, when authorities busted him on March 15, 2010. He was arrested, charged with two counts of possession of contraband in a penal institution and one count of misconduct, and released on $10,000 bail. He was also fired.
Indiana: On April 7, 2010, 24-year-old James Bohannon was sentenced to 30 years in prison following a jury trial in which he was convicted of arson. In January 2009, he started a fire in the Jennings County Jail that prompted the evacuation of about 40 prisoners due to heavy smoke. Bohannon was being held on misdemeanor charges at the time he set the fire.
Kentucky: On March 30, 2010, a jury found Bourbon County jail guard Tony Horn guilty of two misdemeanor counts of criminal attempt to tamper with physical evidence. The convictions stem from Horn ordering the destruction of e-mails concerning the death of prisoner Daniel Trimble, who committed suicide at the jail in February 2008. Horn was sentenced to 90 days in the Clark County Jail, presumably for his own safety to keep him away from prisoners he formerly guarded. He plans to run as a Republican this fall for Bourbon County judge-executive. His willingness to lie and destroy evidence makes him an excellent candidate for a political career.
Louisiana: Jelpi Picou, 49, former director of the Capital Appeals Project, pleaded guilty on February 26, 2010 to stealing more than $200,000 in public funds used to run the non-profit legal defense firm between 2005 and 2009. He resigned from his position in November 2009 and agreed to have his law license suspended in December. Picou was released on a $25,000 recognizance bond; his sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 30, 2010. Veteran appeals lawyer Sarah Ottinger has been named the new director of the Capital Appeals Project.
Nebraska: In March 2010, prison guards Caleb Bartels, Shawn Paulson and Derek Dickey were fired from the Nebraska state penitentiary for comments they posted on Facebook, a social networking site, concerning a prisoner assault. The comments in question were posted on Bartels’ Facebook account. Paulson and Dickey then posted comments in support of his actions. “When you work in a prison a good day is getting to smash an inmate’s face into the ground. ... for me today was a VERY good day,” the Feb. 8, 2010 post on Bartels’ Facebook page stated. Corrections officials confirmed that guards had used force against a prisoner on that date. Bartels, Paulson and Dickey were fired because the statements were contrary to policy and could strain staff relations with prisoners.
New Jersey: Camden County assistant prosecutor Harry Collins resigned on March 26, 2010, after a co-worker discovered he had paid a witness to lie in the murder prosecution of Perman Pitman and then hid the evidence from Pitman’s defense attorney. Pitman had pleaded guilty in exchange for a five-year sentence. However, he continued to file motions from prison seeking evidence he insisted would prove his innocence. One of the motions led assistant prosecutor Teresa Garvey to an old file containing a hand-written note by Collins that said a key witness had been paid to identify Pitman as the murderer. Prosecutors subsequently dismissed Pitman’s conviction and he was released from prison. He has filed a civil rights action against the county.
New Jersey: On March 22, 2010, a jury acquitted Sgt. Maria Sereni, 60, a 19-year veteran at the Mercer County Jail, of crushing a co-worker’s testicle during a playful pat-down search. Sereni was accused of inflicting the injury on judiciary investigator Louis Tedeschi after another co-worker introduced the two. She allegedly pulled him toward her, patted him down and grabbed his crotch. Her attorney argued that Tedeschi didn’t like working in the jail and had used the incident as a way to get transferred back to court duty. Tedeschi had also filed a $3 million suit against the jail after the incident. Sereni must appear at an administrative hearing before she can return to work.
New York: In March 2010, Jennifer Mercado was a juror at a Bronx trial involving a man accused of burglary and possessing stolen credit cards. She was accused of stealing fellow juror John Postrk’s credit card and using it to make purchases during lunch breaks at stores across from the courthouse. Prosecutors and court personnel had a suspect in mind after Postrk reported the theft, because they had observed Mercado return to court with numerous shopping bags after each recess. Officials followed her to a store during the next break and caught her attempting to use Postrk’s card. She was kicked off the jury and charged with various theft-related offenses.
New York: A fight involving 20 to 48 prisoners at the Rikers Island jail broke out on March 27, 2010, leaving 13 guards and 3 prisoners with injuries. The incident occurred following a cell search in a high-security unit during which guards confiscated a large amount of money from a prisoner, who then refused to lock up. One guard required 20 stitches, while some of the prisoners suffered broken hands and wrists. As usual, union officials blamed insufficient staffing at the facility.
Ohio: Former Perkins Township police chief Tim McClung pleaded guilty to theft and mail fraud in federal court on March 24, 2010 in connection with charges that he sold police department firearms and kept the proceeds. He faces a sentence of eight to 14 months in prison. McClung is also facing a theft charge in Erie County, where he is accused of stealing three weapons from the police department. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Ohio: On April 1, 2010, Donald D. Dudrow III, 22, was indicted on various felony and misdemeanor charges in connection with a letter he sent to his mother from the Ottawa County Detention Facility, where he was being held on probation violations. Dudrow gave his mother the name and phone number of a drug dealer plus detailed instructions – including sketches – on how to obtain Fentanyl patches, how to extract the narcotic from the patches and how to mail it to him at the jail. Unfortunately for Dudrow he used the wrong zip code, and the letter was returned as undeliverable. Guards at the jail opened the returned letter, read its contents and turned it over to the police.
Sweden: It was reported in March 2010 that an unnamed Swedish prisoner had been warned by prison staff against using his flatulence as a form of harassment. Anders Eriksson, warden at the Kirseberg prison, called the prisoner’s farts “a series of concerted attacks” against employees. The prisoner defended his actions, claiming his wind-breaking was “all noise and no fragrance.”
Texas: On March 10, 2010, Frank Williams, Jr., 62, formerly a food service worker at the Reeves County Detention Center in Pecos, pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting bribes from prisoners for smuggling cell phones into the jail. He faces up to 15 years in prison. The detention center is operated by GEO Group, a Florida-based private prison company formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections.
Washington: On March 26, 2010, Lawrence Williams, 52, a detainee at the Special Commitment Center (SCC) on McNeil Island, was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and witness tampering. The SCC houses sex offenders who have been civilly committed. Prosecutors alleged that Williams manipulated women, including a former SCC nurse, into acquiring the drugs for him and then paid Paepaega Matautia, Jr., 39, formerly an employee in the SCC mail room, to smuggle the drugs into the facility. Matautia pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scheme, while the nurse was fired. Williams faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 12, 2010. He will be returned to the SCC after he serves his federal prison term. PLN previously reported this case and other unrelated incidents at the SCC. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.18].
Washington: On March 28, 2010, the King County Jail was placed on lockdown after prisoners on the 10th floor began smashing furniture and threatening guards with homemade weapons during a security check. There were no details regarding the cause of the disturbance. Jail officials called in the Seattle Police Department’s SWAT unit, and all 15 prisoners involved in the incident surrendered after about 40 minutes.
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