News in Brief
Arizona: Alcohol appears to have been a factor in a single-vehicle rollover accident on June 14, 2013 that injured five off-duty prison guards from ASPC-Yuma. The accident occurred in a personally-owned vehicle in the desert near the city of San Luis, in an area where people commonly go off-roading. The crash trapped one of the occupants inside the vehicle, requiring rescue workers to use the Jaws of Life. The incident is under investigation and ADOC spokesman Andrew Wilder said the names of the employees involved would not be released.
Arizona: On June 4, 2013, Cochise County Sheriff’s detention officer Mario Serrano was arrested and charged with 17 other suspects as a result of a year-long Drug Enforcement Agency investigation into a narcotics distribution ring. The group, including Serrano, would import kilos of cocaine from Mexico, transport them to locations in Tucson and then distribute the drug to street-level dealers. They are charged with conspiracy to import, transport, sell and possess cocaine; money laundering; sale and transportation of a narcotic drug for sale; and use of a wire or electronic communication in a drug offense. Serrano had already resigned from his position with the Sheriff’s Office.
Arkansas: Several hours after Bethany Nicole Williams, 24, was released from the Baxter County jail on May 19, 2013, she called jail staff to ask if she could return to pick up something she left behind. The “small container” she had left in the pocket of her jail uniform was located by guards, who found that it contained eight Trazodone pills and a clear rock that tested positive for methamphetamine. Williams returned to the jail to claim the container; she tested positive for meth when her probation officer was called to the jail, and subsequently charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and furnishing prohibited articles.
Colorado: On June 11, 2013, the Colorado Department of Corrections conducted the largest full-scale prison evacuation in recent history. Just over 900 prisoners, starting with a group confined to the infirmary, were moved from the Territorial Correctional Facility near Colorado Springs to the East Canon Correctional Complex due to the danger posed by a spreading wildfire. Officials were concerned not only about the fire but also about possible air quality issues. No injuries were reported during the move.
District of Columbia: Paul Mannina was a senior U.S. Department of Labor attorney known as a family man and respected lawyer. He was found dead on June 18, 2013 with his throat slashed in a D.C. jail cell following his arrest for a brutal sexual assault involving an attorney co-worker. The victim, who was beaten so severely that she required facial surgery, initially told police that the attack was random but later identified Mannina, whom she had known for 21 years, as her attacker who had brutalized her with a stun gun, handcuffs and pepper spray. Mannina’s death has not been determined to be either a homicide or suicide.
Florida: Prosecutors say Bernard Beliard, 27, used his position at the South Florida Reception Center to steal lists containing the personal information of 805 prisoners, allegedly for the purpose of committing tax fraud. Beliard pleaded guilty on May 7, 2013 to aggravated identity theft and fraud charges; he met four times with an FBI informant, who gave him $9,600 for the lists. Beliard is no longer employed at the prison.
France: Local officials in Corsica, a French island located off the coast of Italy, announced on May 24, 2013 that a heavy guard detail will accompany an undisclosed number of prisoners who will be allowed out of jail to cycle a stage of the famed Tour de France bicycle race. The prisoners – and guards – have been training on roads and home-trainers in the jails to develop the physical stamina necessary to take on the steep hills of the island.
Georgia: In early February 2013, former guard Lance D. Driggers was caught trying to smuggle four quart-sized and two gallon-sized bags of loose tobacco, plus 15 packages of cigarette rolling papers, into the Augusta State Medical Prison. Driggers, 25, pleaded guilty on May 23, 2013 and was sentenced under the First Offender Act to more than two years of probation.
Georgia: On May 25, 2013, prisoner Tony Criswell escaped the Twiggs County Jail through a hole he was accused of making in a shower wall. Two guards on duty at the time have been fired by Sheriff Darren Mitchum for failure to follow the jail’s security protocols. They did not perform hourly cell block checks when Criswell allegedly ripped out a shower head, slipped through the hole and climbed a fence to escape. He spent three days on the run before being captured. Mitchum said there was no evidence the guards had actively assisted Criswell in the escape.
Guatemala: Thousands of Guatemalans were intentionally infected with STDs in the 1940s by U.S. public health researchers. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.30]. An appeal in their lawsuit against the U.S. government over the medical experiments was dismissed in June 2013. The experimentation was exposed by a U.S. researcher in 2009 and a legal battle ensued, with attorneys representing an estimated 5,000 Guatemalan victims who were used as medical guinea pigs – including prisoners, soldiers, sex workers, mental health patients and school children. Archived records of notes taken by the American research team describe how subjects were deliberately infected without their consent. President Obama had apologized to the Guatamalan government in October 2010 and called on a special commission to look into the experiments.
Hawaii: On May 28, 2013, a former Waiawa Correctional Facility guard was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment. Damon Pavao was involved in a March 2012 incident in which he fired multiple gunshots from his Pearl City home, causing a three-hour shutdown in the area while police negotiated with him to surrender. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Pavao cannot own firearms or ammunition but is eligible to have his record wiped clean if he stays out of trouble for five years. He was fired from the Department of Public Safety following the shooting incident.
Indiana: Heath L. Burgess, incarcerated at the Tippecanoe County Jail, was charged on June 3, 2013 with fraud and being a habitual offender after it was discovered that he filed a false grievance claiming his property, valued at $1,260, had been misplaced by jail staff. In reality, Burgess had learned that his property was inadvertently released to an acquaintance, and asked the man to hold on to the property in a recorded phone call. The charges were filed when it was discovered that Burgess knew where his property was all along.
Kentucky: In June 2013, after an informant told police that Suboxone strips had been smuggled into the Whitley County Detention Center, Major Steve Lundy and jail officials decided the best way to handle the situation was to test prisoners for drug use. As a result, 21 prisoners who tested positive for illicit substances now face new charges. Investigators hope this sends a clear message that contraband drugs will not be tolerated at the facility.
Louisiana: Jason Giroir, 35, a former guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, faces a maximum sentence of 25 years after pleading guilty to participating in a plot to cover up the beating of a handcuffed prisoner. On May 29, 2013, Giroir admitted to falsifying records in a federal investigation and making a false statement to the FBI. Federal prosecutors say Giroir witnessed another officer beating the prisoner in January 2010, but submitted a false report that denied the assault had occurred.
Maine: On July 11, 2013 a woman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that a former jail guard had coerced her into sexual activity at least three times while she was incarcerated at the Knox County Jail. The complaint also alleges there were other incidents involving male guards having sex with female prisoners. Former jail guard Adam Grierson, 26, was arrested in October 2013 and charged with three counts of gross sexual assault. He previously had been charged with trafficking contraband after allegedly giving a cigarette to the prisoner he is accused of sexually abusing, though the trafficking charge was later dismissed. A second Knox County jail guard, Richard S. Wellington, 60, was arrested in late October 2013 for engaging in sexual misconduct with a female prisoner in exchange for candy bars and a shaving razor.
Maine: Walter Wagner, 30, an off-duty guard at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, was hospitalized on June 4, 2013 after his personal firearm discharged, wounding him in the thigh. His wife called to report the injury, which occurred on Wagner’s day off. The .40 caliber Glock handgun was Wagner’s own weapon and not a work-issued gun. He did not appear to be seriously injured, according to Chief Deputy Jeff Trafton of the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office.
Michigan: David Gladstone is a Lansing-area jail guard who allegedly assaulted a prisoner on March 8, 2013. He was formally charged with misdemeanor assault and battery stemming from the incident, and suspended and placed on paid administrative leave on March 22, 2013. If convicted, Gladstone faces up to 93 days in jail and $500 in fines. He was previously involved in a 2009 lawsuit filed against a group of guards who assaulted another prisoner at the Lansing detention facility; that suit, which named the City of Lansing and four officers as defendants, including Gladstone, settled for $46,500.
Michigan: On June 3, 2013, a federal judge recommended that former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway serve her one-year prison sentence for bank fraud at “Camp Cupcake” – the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia where Martha Stewart and former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers served time. When Hathaway’s attorney was asked if he thought the camp was a suitable facility for his client, he commented that the Alderson facility isn’t exactly a prison. “It’s an adult day care,” he said. Although he had argued for community service, federal prosecutors disagreed, stating that Hathaway should have known better than to commit fraud.
New York: Rensselaer County Jail Master Sergeant Anthony Patricelli turned himself in on June 7, 2013 and was arrested for illegally accessing a state-maintained computer database. Patricelli was arraigned and then released on two felony counts of falsifying business records and computer trespass after using the E-Justice database to check the criminal history of a former girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The security breach was revealed in a May 2013 audit of the system. It was unclear whether the Sheriff’s Department internal investigation has concluded or if Patricelli will face additional disciplinary action.
New York: Christopher Clavell, a Rikers Island jail guard, was a suspect in the August 2000 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Barbara Perez, for over a decade. He was arrested and finally charged in 2011, convicted of second-degree murder on June 6, 2013 and sentenced to 25 years to life. Perez’s body was found shot eight times in the head and once in the chest; Clavell had reportedly said he would rather kill her than pay child support for their then 2-year-old son. District Attorney Richard A. Brown credited investigators who continued to work the cold case as they pursued Clavell.
North Carolina: On May 13, 2013, William Neville Dowe, a former guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, was sentenced to three years in prison for taking bribes from prisoners. Investigators say that from July 2011 to June 2012, Dowe received bribes totaling around $15,000 in exchange for contraband that he smuggled into the facility and sold to prisoners, including cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, pornographic magazines and cell phones. Dowe will serve an additional three years of supervised release upon completion of his prison term.
Pennsylvania: A former administrator at the Chester County Prison is facing charges stemming from the sexual abuse of two of his young foster children. Officials say that Leroy Mitchell, 60, and his wife have fostered more than 50 children over the past few decades, and that a search for additional victims continues. The initial victims were between the ages of 7 and 9 at the time of the assaults. Mitchell was arrested on May 31, 2013 and housed at the Montgomery County Prison due to his prior employment at the Chester County facility. The investigation is ongoing.
Pennsylvania: On May 30, 2013, an Erie County prison guard was suspended indefinitely without pay pending an administrative hearing. Authorities allege that 29-year-old guard Brent Carr bought a car stereo and big-screen television from a prisoner who was trying to raise bond money. Carr, who allegedly had telephone and text message communications with the prisoner’s girlfriend as well as the prisoner himself, admitted that he understood what he did was wrong.
Pennsylvania: Christopher M. Ganues, 40, was arrested on June 4, 2013 on charges of felony involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, felony criminal attempt of a rape threat, felony sexual assault and other related charges. Ganues, a guard at SCI Graterford, is accused of forcing a prisoner to perform sexual acts by threatening him with the loss of visitation privileges. The prisoner sent a letter to the State Police that included a sample of Ganues’ semen as evidence.
Puerto Rico: An employee of Canteen Correctional Services, a private contractor that provides prison food services, was arrested in June 2013 for allegedly delivering heroin to a prisoner. The case, which is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI, alleges that Abimael Bello Burgos received $1,000 in cash from an undercover agent to smuggle the narcotics into Bayamon State Prison. Burgos was charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams of heroin.
Puerto Rico: Prison guard Angel Marrero Hernandez was arrested on May 17, 2013 on child pornography charges for encouraging a 15-year-old girl to exchange nude cell phone photos with him. He was ordered held in the federal jail in Guaynabo to await trial.
Russia: The fate of a black and white feline is unknown after it was caught in April 2013 sneaking into Russian Prison Colony Number One carrying cell phones and chargers taped to its body. Officials at the prison colony stated that various attempts to smuggle contraband into the facility have been foiled before, but this was the first attempt involving a cat. A cat was also used to smuggle heroin into a prison in South Russia’s Rostov Region in August 2012, and into a Brazilian prison in January 2013. [See: PLN, May 2013, p.56].
Texas: Following a six-week internal investigation, two guards at the Bexar County Jail have been placed on administrative leave. Alvaro Ramirez III and Michael Smith allegedly punched and beat prisoner Shawn McHazlett inside his cell on March 31, 2013; Ramirez entered the cell and instigated the beating, while Smith allegedly tried to cover up the assault. A third guard who witnessed the attack resigned three days later, stating that the beating solidified his decision to quit. The former guard, who asked not to be identified, said “I felt like I can’t work in this type of environment.”
Texas: Prisoner Joe Hernandez was brutally killed by four fellow prisoners who kicked and punched him to death on July 29, 2012 at the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility. For reasons that were unclear in news reports, the four suspects in Hernandez’s death – Manuel Leal, Jose Rafael Valdez, Jr., Christopher McDonough and Arthur Maldonado – were released from custody after the attack. They were arrested in June 2013 and face manslaughter charges; bail for the men was set at $100,000 each.
Texas: McLennan County Jail Administrator John Kolinek and his staff have determined that serving prisoners powdered milk instead of regular milk in a carton will save the county nearly $30,000 a year. The prisoners began receiving powered milk in May 2013. As the jail’s population continues to rise, county officials have begun paying LaSalle Southwest Corrections, a for-profit prison company, to house the overflow of prisoners from McLennan County. County Commissioner Kelly Snell said the county was $6 million over budget in the past two years and is seeking ways to cut costs.
Thailand: In a move to improve the country’s human rights record, Thailand’s Corrections Department began a pilot program on May 15, 2013 to remove heavy ankle chains from prisoners at the Bang Kwang Central Prison in Bangkok. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters that Thailand wants to rehabilitate rather than simply punish prisoners. “We aim to change and develop inmates’ behavior instead of using chains,” she stated. Some prisoners expressed appreciation for the policy change. One, who had been required to wear the ankle chains, said, “It made me feel worse than an animal. I never chained my dog.”
Washington: Prison guard Brandy Boyer was running late for work on May 18, 2013 when she spotted David Daniel McElroy, 28, wearing a prison-issued shirt and pants outside the Larch Corrections Center. She called the prison and learned that guards were in the process of confirming an escape. Boyer then called 911 for backup. McElroy, who was serving time for burglary and drug possession, attempted to run but was quickly apprehended. Larch officials said they believe he stood on a garbage can and used a sheet and pillow to shield himself from razor wire as he scaled a 10-foot fence.
West Virginia: Former prison guard Franklin Bayard Gibson, Jr. was ordered to serve consecutive sentences after admitting to bringing tobacco into the Huttonsville Correctional Center for his incarcerated cousin. His guilty pleas to charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery resulted in prison terms of two to 15 years when he was sentenced on May 3, 2013. Gibson stated he had made $600 to $700 by smuggling the contraband. His attorney pointed out that Gibson had no criminal record and said of the tobacco, “it’s not as if it were heroin.”