Following the August 21, 2009 riot at Northpoint, guards identified over 170 prisoners who took part in the disturbance. Prison guard Jesus Cabrera, 38, identified 124 of those prisoners, including six of ten who were criminally charged.
However, Cabrera’s own July 28, 2010 arrest for introducing 12 Diazepam (AKA Valium) pills – used for anxiety relief and as a muscle relaxer – into the facility put his credibility into question. “I’m very concerned that an officer who claims to have identified over 100 inmates in this event has, within a matter of months, himself been charged,” said attorney Theodore Shouse, who represents prisoner Aaron Fisk. “It clearly causes anyone to doubt his credibility.”
Fisk contends he did not participate in the riot, but faces charges of first-degree arson, first-degree riot and being a persistent felony offender. Cabrera identified Fisk as having taken part in the disturbance.
“It’s concerning that someone who is, in some cases, the only witness against someone, has also been arrested himself and charged with a crime,” said public defender Stacy Countz, who represents two prisoners charged in the Northpoint riot.
A September 8, 2009 report by Kentucky State Police detective Monte Owens said Cabrera was working in the visitation room when the riot began. He responded to a call of a fire in a dormitory and helped evacuate prisoners. He then moved about the yard. Eventually, other prisoners and Cabrera were chased by prisoners involved in the riot. One of them, Kurt Smith, pleaded guilty to first-degree riot and third-degree assault for hitting Cabrera on the chin with a piece of concrete. Smith received concurrent five-year sentences.
Once the riot was quelled, “Cabrera was able to provide an extensive list of inmates involved in the riot and their actions,” the report stated. “Cabrera advised that he knew many of the inmates. When the yard was secured, Cabrera sat down and made notes of what he saw and their actions. He also used the institution mug book to identify those whose names he did not know.”
Even before Cabrera’s arrest for smuggling the Diazepam pills, prisoners’ families and friends challenged the veracity of his identifications. One family member, Suzette Raybeck, said DOC officials should “stand up, admit that our loved ones were unjustly punished – physically, mentally and emotionally – and we want reparation for the harms done to them.” That, of course, is unlikely to happen.
The DA who is prosecuting prisoners charged with participating in the Northpoint riot said he no longer intended to call Cabrera as a witness. “I have no plans to use him. We have no cases under indictment that depend only on his testimony,” remarked Commonwealth Attorney Richie Bottoms, who noted that Cabrera’s own criminal charges “complicated things.”
Cabrera pleaded guilty on November 3, 2011 to first-degree promoting contraband, in exchange for a recommendation that he receive a one-year jail sentence. He had been fired by the Kentucky DOC following his arrest. Upon being sentenced in January 2012, he received five years’ probation.
Some of the prisoners charged in connection with the Northpoint riot did not fare as well. On January 3, 2012, for example, prisoner Newell Stacy, 40, was sentenced to an additional 20 years for rioting.
Sources: Lexington Herald-Leader, www.kentucky.com, www.centralkynews.com
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