Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

News in Brief

Australia: Benjamin Lord pleaded guilty in Victoria County Court on January 21, 2013 to two counts of impersonating a public official with the intention of obtaining sexual services and two counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception. While incarcerated, Lord, 31, had victimized a fellow prisoner by pretending to be an undercover government agent. Besides convincing the victim to have sex, Lord also demanded hair samples from him and strip searched him. Lord continued the charade once he was released, returning to visit his victim in prison and manipulating him after he was paroled. Judge Julie Nicholson called Lord's scheme "quite inventive" and "almost like a Hollywood script."

Brazil: Dozens of prisoners escaped from a Brazilian prison by crawling through the sewage system on February 3, 2013, authorities said. An official at Vicente Piragibe prison in Rio de Janeiro state told the media that 31 prisoners were involved in the escape; four were quickly captured while still in the sewers. The facility houses around 1,700 prisoners with only 10 guards on duty at times. The prisoners are believed to have broken into the sewer pipes through the floor of a communal area.

California: Fremont jail prisoner Marquice McClinton was arrested on January 29, 2013 on charges of suspicion of vandalism after destroying his jail-issued mattress by ripping it open. McClinton complained to guards that his mattress was dirty and that he wanted to be transported to the Santa Rita Jail. Police spokeswoman Geneva Bosques said, "We obliged his wish and he was transported to Santa Rita and booked for vandalism." The mattress was reportedly worth $200.

District of Columbia: On January 25, 2013, hackers claiming to be from the group Anonymous embedded a video statement on the U.S. Sentencing Commission's website in response to the death of Aaron Swartz, an Internet activist who committed suicide earlier that month. Swartz, 26, was facing hacking charges and up to 35 years in prison if convicted. "The federal sentencing guidelines ... enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally-guaranteed right to a fair trial, by a jury of their peers [and] are a clear violation of the 8th Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments," said the hackers, who labeled the attack "Operation Last Resort" and said the Sentencing Commission's website was selected for symbolic reasons.

Florida: Carissa Correia's 7-year-old pit bull, Sassy, died after being shot twice on January 10, 2013 by off-duty Lee County corrections officer Justin Stroedecke, who used his department-issued handgun. Stroedecke claimed the family pet had tried to bite him while he was walking his dog. Correia said she let Sassy out to go to the bathroom and that's the last time she saw her alive. The case is being investigated by Lee County Domestic Animal Services.

Florida: On December 9, 2010, Stephen Espalin, 57, needed treatment for chest pains but was asked to leave a Boca Raton, Florida hospital for falsely saying he had health insurance. In an attempt to receive medical care from federal authorities, he threatened to assassinate President Barack Obama, his family and their dog. Court records show that Espalin had previously served an 18-month federal prison term for threatening former President George W. Bush. For stating he planned to kill Obama, Espalin was sentenced on January 18, 2013 to 51 months in federal prison and ordered to undergo mental health treatment while incarcerated.

Illinois: Former Governor George Ryan, 79, one of four Illinois governors who have been criminally charged and convicted over the past four decades, was released from federal prison on January 30, 2013. He briefly checked into a Chicago halfway house before being placed on home confinement to complete his 6½-year sentence for fraud and racketeering. Some viewed this arrangement as yet another backroom deal cut by a career politician who had steered millions of dollars in state business to lobbyists and friends in exchange for vacations, gifts and other perks. Ryan's attorney and Bureau of Prisons officials denied that he had received special treatment. Ryan is perhaps best known for commuting the sentences of all Illinois death row prisoners at the end of his term as governor in 2003. [See: PLN, July 2003, p.25].

Illinois: On January 24, 2013, a deputy on patrol reported seeing black smoke as he drove past the home of Troy Morgan, 31, a state prison guard at Dixon Correctional Center. The smoke was from Morgan burning the plastic covering off copper wire that he had stolen; he was charged with six counts of felony theft and two counts of misdemeanor theft after investigators found wire, chains, tools and other items taken in recent burglaries. He was booked into the Whiteside County Jail, then released on his own recognizance.

Indiana: Morgan County jail guard Nicholas Tankersley, 21, was sentenced in March 2013 to a year in jail after pleading guilty to official misconduct. He had been fired after being charged with sexual battery, official misconduct, battery and theft. Several female prisoners claimed Tankersley told them he would give them items in violation of jail rules if they stripped or exposed their breasts. According to a probable cause affidavit, two prisoners alleged he had them perform a sex show.

Indiana: A woman who worked for Aramark, a private company that provides food services at the New Castle Correctional Facility, was accused of smuggling tobacco and cell phones to prisoners. The Indiana State Police said a warrant was issued for the arrest of 44-year-old Roberta Ashburn, who turned herself in on February 1, 2013. Ashburn's arrest was the second time in two months that a New Castle employee had been accused of smuggling contraband; former prison worker Richard Rice was arrested in January 2013 on charges of trafficking with an inmate, possession of marijuana and possession of heroin.

Iowa: Dakota County Jail employee Mason Billings, 44, was arrested on January 18, 2013 on one misdemeanor count of theft by unlawful taking. He is accused of stealing $400 from a prisoner at the jail in September 2012. Security footage showed Billings removing an item from a plastic bag containing the prisoner's property. Dakota County Jail Director Terry Kern said Billings had repaid the money and was fired. The incident prompted a policy change at the jail – two employees must be present when a prisoner's money is counted, rather than one as allowed under the previous policy.

Kentucky: When Sarah Vincent showed up at the Warren County Regional Jail in December 2012 to post bond for her boyfriend, Jarell Lewis, who had been arrested on charges of DUI and cocaine trafficking, the $5,005 in cash she brought with her smelled like marijuana, according to a Bowling Green Police Department report. Vincent agreed to allow officers to search the home she shared with Lewis, where police found more money, bags of marijuana, two bags of suspected cocaine, an unknown white powder, digital scales and 4.4 grams of Vyvanse. In addition to his initial charges, Lewis now faces additional drug trafficking charges. Vincent was not charged.

Louisiana: Opelousas police Sgt. Kenneth Edwards was arrested on January 18, 2013 and charged with two counts of doctor shopping, two counts of drug distribution and two counts of introducing contraband into a penal facility. After Police Chief Perry Gallow received an internal complaint about Edwards, state troopers were notified. Investigators say he gave drugs to prisoners in the Opelousas City Jail that he had obtained from different doctors on two separate occasions.

Maryland: On January 4, 2013, former Prince George's County jail guard Anthony McIntosh, 49, pleaded guilty to one count of falsification of records in a federal investigation in connection with the death of prisoner Ronnie White, 19, who died at the jail in 2008. [See: PLN, Aug. 2010, p.22; May 2009, p.14]. Prosecutors contended that McIntosh entered White's cell and removed him from a sheet from which he was found hanging, then quickly left the cell, failed to tell anyone and later falsified reports about White's death. Because White had been charged with murdering a county police officer, the case raised concerns that his death was a retaliation killing by jail staff. McIntosh was sentenced on June 3, 2013 to two years in federal prison.

Mexico: Following the January 16, 2013 escape of two prisoners in San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, seven prison officials, including the warden, were detained as accomplices and criminally charged, according to the Attorney General's Office. Escapes are frequent at Mexican prisons and sometimes involve the cooperation of employees. In September 2012, 131 prisoners escaped from the Piedras Negras Prison in the state of Coahuila.

Minnesota: A guard at the MCF-Lino Lakes prison, Timothy James Korsmoe, 47, allegedly exposed his genitals to an unnamed prisoner several times in August and September 2012. While on duty at the medium-security facility, Korsmoe masturbated in front of the prisoner and ejaculated into a bowl, according to a criminal complaint filed in Anoka County. After the prisoner reported the incident, DNA testing by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension found the semen in the bowl was a match to Korsmoe. He was placed on paid leave and pleaded guilty to misconduct of a public officer on February 26, 2013. He faces up to 90 days in jail.

New Mexico: Fifteen prisoners have been charged with felonies for participating in a January 15, 2013 riot at the Cibola County Detention Center, which is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). The incident resulted in over $10,000 in damages to toilets, sinks, chairs and desks, and guards had to use tear gas to quell the disturbance. The riot started when CCA officials denied commissary privileges to prisoners as a form of collective punishment after home-brewed alcohol was found in one of the housing units. "In jail or not, you cannot just go around causing damage to property, including the county's," stated Undersheriff Tony Mace.

New York: Onondaga County Sheriff's Office deputies Thomas Carver and Benjamin St. Andrew were charged last year with obtaining information from jail computers and providing it to prisoner Stanley Lostumbo, who was seeking details about several jurors in his criminal case. Although the deputies thought their actions were in accordance with Sheriff's Office regulations, little training had been done about the use of computer information and they didn't know the people they were looking up were jurors. Carver and St. Andrew could have faced up to four years in prison if convicted of felony computer trespass, but the charges were reduced to misdemeanors in January 2013 and prosecutors moved to adjourn their cases if they stayed out of trouble.

New York: Former Tioga County jail guard David Monell was sentenced on December 18, 2012 to six months in federal prison after being caught on tape beating prisoner David Coffey while Coffey was handcuffed to a bench. At his sentencing hearing, Monell, who had been named 2010 Corrections Officer of the Year, apologized to Coffey, the community and other law enforcement officers for the unprovoked attack. He had resigned two days after the June 2010 incident. [See: PLN, Oct. 2012, p.52].

New York: Investigators allege that Kimberly Margeson, 54, visited her son, William Partridge, 30, who was being held in an upstate jail following his arrest on a weapons charge. According to the Yates County Sheriff's Department, Margeson put Oxycodone pills "into her mouth and brought them into the jail." She then passed two of the pills "from her mouth to her son's mouth when she kissed him." Margeson was arrested and charged with a felony drug offense; she and her son were also charged with a misdemeanor count of promoting contraband.

Ohio: Michael A. Ferrara, Jr., 34, was pronounced dead at the Adena Medical Center after being found unconscious in his cell at the Ross Correctional Institution at 4:50 a.m. on January 11, 2013, two days before his scheduled release. His death was determined to be a homicide, and Ferrara's cellmate, Logan Alan Murphy, 21, was charged with aggravated murder in May 2013. Murphy has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Oklahoma: Federal prosecutors said former Murray County Sheriff's deputy Craig Alan Billings tackled handcuffed prisoner Logan Grinstead and repeatedly slammed his head on the floor after Grinstead made offensive comments. Billings pleaded guilty on January 11, 2013 to one count of deprivation of rights for violating Grinstead's civil rights when he was being booked into the Murray County Jail in October 2011. Billings faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison, but his attorney said a plea agreement would result in significantly less time.

Pennsylvania: On January 11, 2013, former state prison guard Edward J. Davis, 28, was arrested on charges of taking contraband into SCI-Dallas and having sexual contact with a prisoner. In an arrest report, state police said Davis kissed and performed sex acts on the unidentified male prisoner multiple times at the facility. Investigators found more than 100 sexually explicit love letters that Davis had sent the prisoner; additionally, police claimed Davis had routinely smuggled drugs and other contraband to the prisoner for months until he was caught with six cell phones, marijuana, artwork and pills. Davis was released on bail but ordered to spend a week in jail or at a treatment center after he subsequently accepted several phone calls from the prisoner.

South Carolina: Helen D. Mershon, 47, was jailed on a $75,000 cash-only bond after an internal investigation found she had embezzled at least $25,000 from the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, where she did clerical work at the county jail. Sheriff John Cottle said Mershon's theft of funds was discovered while performing internal reviews of different divisions in the sheriff's department, and that he has enacted safeguards to prevent such incidents from happening again.

Tennessee: A Sevier County probation/parole officer who was arrested on theft charges on January 16, 2013 has been fired by the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). An investigation revealed that officer Joshua Keith DeBord had misused funds that were paid by offenders in fines and fees. The TDOC plans to launch an automated fee payment system beginning in June 2013 that will help prevent such abuses. Rather than submitting court-ordered fines, restitution or fees in person, parolees and probationers will be able to make online payments.

Texas: On January 14, 2013, McLennan County officials removed 47 microwave ovens from the county jail after a request for $85,000 to upgrade the wiring in the facility was denied by county commissioners. The microwaves had overloaded the jail's electrical system. Sheriff Parnell McNamara said the microwaves were considered a safety hazard because prisoners used them to heat liquids to throw on other prisoners. Trustees at the jail, who do laundry, cleaning and cooking, will continue to have access to several microwaves.

Virginia: Robert Gleason, Jr. became the first prisoner executed in the U.S. in 2013 and the first to choose death by electrocution since 2010. He was serving a life sentence when he hog-tied, beat and strangled his cellmate, Harvey Watson, Jr., in May 2009. While awaiting sentencing he subsequently strangled 26-year-old prisoner Aaron Cooper in July 2010. [See: PLN, Feb. 2011, p.44]. Gleason later said in phone interviews that he deserved to die, and that "the only way to stop me is put me on death row." A jury obliged and Gleason was executed on January 16, 2013.

Virginia: Daquain Alonzo Wiltshire, 23, a guard at the Coffeewood Correctional Center, faces criminal charges in connection with an incident at an IHOP restaurant on February 3, 2013. According to Fredericksburg police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe, Wiltshire and others were eating at the restaurant at about 5 a.m. when members of the group, who were described as being at "various levels of intoxication," became unruly. After a confrontation with an employee, Wiltshire went to the parking lot and returned to the restaurant carrying a gun. Police were later able to locate him because he paid with a credit card, and he was booked into the Rappahannock Regional Jail on four misdemeanor counts of brandishing a firearm.

Virginia: On February 4, 2013, William Lamar Ballard, 19, received a 50-year sentence with 22 years suspended for punching Coffeewood Juvenile Correctional Center plumbing instructor David Cornett and throwing a sink faucet that hit Cornett in the head in March 2012. Cornett was forced to leave his teaching job at Coffeewood as a result of his injuries. Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Megan Frederick cited the importance of maintaining order in correctional facilities, and said her office had requested a sentence at the high end of the guidelines due to the injuries that Cornett suffered.

Washington: Kitsap County jail guard Brett E. Hamilton, 39, sent multiple text messages to a former female prisoner who had been released from the Kitsap County Jail, including some in which he impersonated her deceased mother. The woman was frightened by the messages, according to police reports. Hamilton signed a pretrial diversion agreement in December 2012; if he stays out of trouble for three years, has no contact with the victim and receives counseling, charges of telephone harassment and making a false statement to a public servant will be dropped. He remains on leave from his position at the jail.

Washington: On January 30, 2013, three unidentified boys, ages 8, 10 and 16, capsized their canoe in the frigid waters of Salmon Creek near Hazel Dell. Prisoners Nelson Pettis, Larry Bohn and Jon Fowler, who were on a nearby work crew from the Larch Corrections Center, came to their aid and pulled them out of the water. "We just thought it was some kids screaming until we seen their two heads bobbing in the water with the canoe upside-down," said Pettis. "People are trying to say we're heroes. I don't think we're heroes. I think we did something that any good person would do," added Fowler. "Just because we're incarcerated doesn't mean we're bad people. We made some bad choices in our lives, but we're still, we're just like everybody else."

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login