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North Carolina Warden Charged With Obstruction in Beating Coverup

Richard L. Neely, the former warden at Lanesboro Correctional Institution, was charged in April 2011 with obstruction of justice, a Class H felony, for withholding or ordering the destruction of evidence relevant to an investigation at the prison.

Neely became warden at Lanesboro in November 2009 after allegations involving use of excessive force against a prisoner forced the early retirement of the facility’s previous warden.

The charges against Neely allege that he “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did obstruct justice by ordering evidence ... CD of video surveillance from Lanesboro prison, to be withheld and/or destroyed that was directly relevant and related to an ongoing investigation of Lanesboro inmates.”

The investigation involved a November 2009 incident in which several prisoners and guards were involved in a fight. A former sergeant at Lanesboro, Stephanie Miller, said Neely ordered her to destroy video footage of the brawl because he was concerned it showed guards using excessive force. Instead Miller contacted the State Bureau of Investigation.

“I was instructed not to put the video in the felony file and to destroy it,” she said. “... It was basically a cover-up of the assault. [Neely] didn’t want to be investigated.” Miller said she faced harassment by DOC officials after she turned Neely in, and she later resigned. [See: PLN, Oct. 2011, p.30].

“In November 2009, a number of inmates seriously assaulted a number of correctional staff at Lanesboro Correctional Institution. Four inmates have been charged. No staff have been charged,” a DOC spokesperson stated. “The Department is now looking into why Richard Neely allegedly did not initially release all of the footage to law enforcement.”

Neely, a 30-year veteran DOC employee, continues to receive his $71,846 annual salary while the investigation and charges against him are pending. He faces up to eight months in prison if convicted.

In May 2011, despite a public records request filed by media organizations, the DOC said it would not release the video footage that Neely is accused of withholding. “They are not only considered part of confidential inmate records, but also protected for security purposes,” said DOC director of external affairs Pamela Walker.


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