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News in Brief

Arizona: On December 28, 2012, Safford police officers found state prison guard David Hudson, in uniform, threatening to harm himself while holding a gun near the edge of a bridge. Hudson laid down the gun and surrendered to the officers, and was taken to a medical center for evaluation. “Hopefully, he will be able to get the help he needs,” stated Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred.

Brazil: A prisoner who tried to escape from a prison in Ceres should have lost some weight first, as he became stuck while trying to squeeze through a hole in the prison wall. “The other prisoners tried to push him but he stayed stuck in the wall. He started screaming in pain, and that was when the prison guards were alerted,” said Lt. Tiago Costa with the local fire brigade, which had to extract the overweight escapee.

Brazil: On January 1, 2013, the Brazilian news media reported that a cat had been caught attempting to smuggle contraband into a prison in Arapiraca. The feline was found to have a saw, drill bits, a cell phone, batteries, a phone charger and a memory card taped to its body as it tried to enter the main gate of the facility. “It’s tough to find out who’s responsible for the action as the cat doesn’t speak,” said an unidentified prison spokesperson. The cat was not harmed.

Colorado: Four former prison guards employed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City were arrested in November 2012 and charged with drug-related offenses. Steven Ricotta, 26, was charged with distribution of a controlled substance, felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor use of a controlled substance for taking Percocet pills to the prison and providing them to co-workers. The other guards, Jesus Romero, 28, Charles Latimer, 29, and Mace Rebetrano, 36, were charged with investigation of felony possession of a controlled substance and misdemeanor use of a controlled substance.

Czech Republic: As of January 6, 2013, the Czech prison system had released over 6,000 prisoners as part of an amnesty announced by outgoing President Vaclav Klaus. A total of 7,000 prisoners serving up to 10 years are expected to be released, plus approximately 25,000 other people on house arrest and serving community sentences and suspended sentences. The amnesty was part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic. Several lawmakers indicated they would file a legal challenge to part of the amnesty, as it disadvantaged crime victims.

Florida: On Christmas Eve in 2012, Pasco County jail detention deputy Philip Bruce Walters, 45, was booked into the jail where he worked on a battery charge after beating a prisoner in the facility’s medical ward. Walters was accused of punching prisoner Trent Godizzaro, 29, who took Walters’ radio and called for help as he was being assaulted. According to witnesses, there was no reason for Walters to attack Godizzaro, who was not being aggressive. Walters, a former Pennsylvania state prison guard, posted $500 bail and was released.

Florida: A Pinellas County jail deputy was fired in October 2012 after using excessive force on a prisoner. Deputy Desmond Quinn exchanged words with detainee David Fowler before grabbing him by the neck and throwing him against a desk and then to the floor. Fowler was apparently handcuffed at the time. The sheriff’s office released video of the incident, in which Quinn admitted he was “unprofessional,” in January 2013. Quinn previously had been suspended for using excessive force for tipping a prisoner out of a wheelchair; he claimed the prisoner had been trying to kick another deputy.

Georgia: On December 21, 2012, around 3,500 prisoners in Georgia received pardons. They were not in the U.S. state of Georgia, however, but rather the nation of the same name in the Caucasus region of Eurasia that was formerly part of the Soviet Union. The prisoners who were pardoned, reportedly as part of a political power play by Georgia’s new prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, included defendants convicted of robbery, fraud, high treason, drug offenses and spying for Russia, among other crimes.

Illinois: Patrick Loftin, 24, a former prison guard, was arrested on December 10, 2012 following a domestic disturbance that led to a standoff after his mother locked herself and Loftin’s two children in the basement, and he fired a shot at responding law enforcement officers. Hostage negotiators talked him into surrendering; he was taken for a mental evaluation and is expected to face kidnapping and assault charges.

Illinois: The maximum-security State-ville Correctional Center was placed on lockdown on January 4, 2013, but not due to a riot or other violent incident. Rather it was due to the flu, with 60 employees calling in sick. The lockdown was ordered due to understaffing. Over 100 prisoners at the facility also were reportedly sick with the flu.

Indiana: Former New Castle Correctional Facility guard Richard Rice, 47, was arrested on January 10, 2013 and charged with trafficking with inmates, possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance (heroin), all felonies. He is accused of trying to smuggle the drugs into the facility. Rice was booked into the Henry County jail and held on $17,500 bond; he had been employed at the prison for less than a year.

Ireland: A new faction of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) claimed responsibility on November 12, 2012 for the murder of Maghaberry prison guard David Black. About 40 IRA members are incarcerated at the facility and have protested strip-search policies. Black, 52, was shot to death as he drove to work on November 1, 2012; he was the first prison guard murdered in Northern Ireland since 1993. The IRA faction that took responsibility for the killing stated it had “a responsibility to protect and defend” its incarcerated members.

Italy: On January 8, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights held that prisons in Italy violate prisoners’ basic rights. The Court issued its ruling in a case filed by seven prisoners who claimed they did not have regular access to light and hot water, and that they each had to share a 97-square-foot cell with two other prisoners. The Court imposed a $130,000 fine on the Italian government for violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits torture and inhumane or degrading treatment.

Kentucky: The McCreary County Jail was closed by the Kentucky Department of Corrections on December 11, 2012, and all 47 detainees at the facility were transferred to the Laurel County Correctional Center by January 4, 2013. The DOC cited the jail for failing to properly report escapes, including six prisoners who absconded from the facility from January through June 2012. State officials also noted the jail was “extremely dirty,” and said there were problems with managing prisoners.

Louisiana: On January 4, 2013, Joshua Kelly, 38, escaped from the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in a prison ambulance. Kelly reportedly overpowered a guard while working as an infirmary orderly on a night cleaning crew. He donned the guard’s jacket and drove out of the facility in the ambulance. According to Angola prison warden Burl Cain, Kelly called him while he was on the run and said he wanted to turn himself in and return to Angola because he didn’t feel safe at Elayn Hunt. Cain and Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc convinced Kelly to pull over and give himself up, and he was taken into custody around 3 hours after he escaped. He was serving a 65-year sentence for multiple armed robbery convictions. The guard he had overpowered was not seriously injured.

Maine: Washington County jail guard Troy Lyons claimed he was outside the jail talking on a cell phone on October 29, 2012 when he saw something moving around the facility’s perimeter. He went to investigate and claimed he was attacked and injured by an unknown assailant. But Lyons resigned on December 13, 2012 before attending a termination hearing, after it was determined he had lied and his injuries were self-inflicted. “Things just didn’t add up, and he changed his story,” said Sheriff Donnie Smith. “He also said he was on the ground for four or five minutes. This happened the night of [Hurricane Sandy], and he wasn’t muddy and he wasn’t wet.”

Mississippi: An investigation was ordered by Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie after a jail prisoner was found to have a handgun on January 3, 2013. Anthony Duane Talley, Jr., 31, was charged with possession of contraband and being a felon in possession of a firearm after a .380 semi-automatic pistol was discovered in his cell during a search. The gun was reportedly not loaded, nor were any bullets found. Jail officials suspect the weapon was brought into the facility through a damaged window. “The window has been fixed,” Sheriff Sollie stated.

New Jersey: Roger Albarracin, 34, was being held at the Hudson County jail on December 16, 2012, pending transfer to the state prison system to serve a three-year sentence for drug possession with intent to distribute, when he was found to have nine bags of marijuana and a $100 bill hidden in his buttocks. As a result he now faces new charges of drug possession and possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school.

New York: On January 8, 2013, two off-duty Rikers Island guards were involved in a love triangle shooting incident. Guards Dale Moore, 32, and Shalonda Smith, 36, were driving in Moore’s vehicle when they were tailed and then cut off by Kai Gates, 34, Smith’s ex-boyfriend, who allegedly had been harassing her. Moore shot Gates in the chest and face after he exited his SUV and ignored Moore’s order to not come any closer.
Gates, who was unarmed, survived the shooting but was seriously injured. Moore was subsequently charged with assault in the first degree and assault in the second decree, and initially jailed on $2 million bail. The Correction Officers Benevolent Association protested the high bail amount, which the court later reduced to $150,000.

New York: Derek A. Storms, 25, a Steuben County jail guard, was charged with first-degree attempted robbery and fourth-degree conspiracy on January 4, 2013. Storms and two co-defendants, Sheila D. Gay and Jordan A. Guerin, allegedly entered an apartment in the town of Bath and discharged a handgun. Storms, a probationary county employee at the time, was placed on administrative leave and was expected to be fired. “I don’t think he’ll be with us much longer,” stated Steuben County Sheriff David Cole.

Ohio: The mistaken release of a murder suspect from a Cleveland jail has resulted in a guard losing her job. Cleveland Department of Correction guard Toya Tell-Byrd was terminated on January 4, 2013 following an internal investigation into the release of Drew Danzy, 18, who was being held on an aggravated murder warrant and contempt of court traffic warrant. Tell-Byrd acknowledged that she had exercised “bad judgment” by failing to recognize that Danzy still had the murder warrant when he was released following a court hearing in December 2012. Danzy was captured and reincarcerated on January 29, 2013.

Oklahoma: Christopher Smith, 29, employed by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as a guard at the company’s Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville, pleaded no contest to a charge of forcible sodomy and was sentenced on January 4, 2013 to seven years in prison with all but one year suspended. Smith admitted that he had engaged in oral sex with a male prisoner, Kelly Demings, in 2011; in addition to the prison term he must serve two years of probation and register as a sex offender. Demings had kept DNA evidence from the encounter, which was matched to Smith. He is now pursuing a federal lawsuit against both Smith and CCA.

Oklahoma: Two Puerto Rico prison officials died in a vehicle accident on January 10, 2013 while on their way to pick up a prisoner at a facility in Cushing. Mayra Ramirez, Eliezer Colon Claussells and two other Puerto Rico Department of Corrections employees were en route to the CCA-operated Cimarron Correctional Facility when their van was hit head-on by another vehicle. Claussells, Ramirez and the driver of the other vehicle died, while the two other prison officials in the van were hospitalized in serious condition. The Cimarron facility houses around 400 Puerto Rican prisoners.

Pennsylvania: On February 20, 2013, James Donis, 50, former major of the guards at the Allegheny County Jail, was sentenced in federal court to five years of probation, including eight months at a halfway house. He had pleaded guilty to falsifying reports related to an incident in which he assaulted a prisoner who tried to escape in 2010. [See: PLN, Nov. 2012, p.40]. The halfway house later refused to accept Donis, as it could not guarantee his safety as a former jail official, and in March 2013 the court ordered him to serve eight months at a different community corrections facility. His attorney had argued that Donis should be allowed to serve that part of his sentence on home confinement so he could work at his wife’s business. The court rejected that request, noting that home confinement was not appropriate when “a corrections officer assaulted a defenseless prisoner who was under restraints at the time and falsified records.”

Pennsylvania: Snyder County Prison guard Randy Lee Noll, 27, was fired and charged with possessing instruments of crime, using an electronic incapacitation device, simple assault and harassment in connection with an October 15, 2012 incident involving horseplay and a Taser. Noll reportedly used the Taser to shock Rebecca J. Bickhart, a nurse at the facility, because she had played a prank on him involving his lunchbox. Warden Ruth Rush apparently didn’t find humor in Noll’s improper use of the Taser; she notified the state police. Noll has since appealed his job termination.

South Dakota: On January 3, 2013, the state Supreme Court overturned the death sentence imposed on Rodney Berget, 50, for murdering prison guard Ronald “R.J.” Johnson in April 2011 during a failed escape attempt. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.50; Dec. 2011, p.50; Feb. 2013, p.50]. Another prisoner who participated in Johnson’s murder during the attempted escape, Eric Robert, was sentenced to death and executed in October 2012. The Supreme Court held the trial court had improperly considered statements that Berget had made during a competency hearing, and remanded his case for resentencing.

Tennessee: In late December 2012, one of the two boilers at the Rutherford County Jail broke down, making it difficult to keep the facility heated as temperatures dropped into the 20s at night. Sheriff Robert Arnold said the jail staff was making contingency plans in case the other boiler failed, too. Some prisoners were transferred to a workhouse as a temporary measure. The jail’s boilers are around 15 years old.

Texas: Former East Hidalgo Detention Center guard Jorge Luis Sandoval, 32, who pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in July 2012, was sentenced on January 3, 2013 to one year and one day in federal prison plus two years of supervised release. Sandoval had accepted a bribe to smuggle two cell phones into the facility. At Sandoval’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa said he had displayed a “total disrespect for the law.” The East Hidalgo Detention Center is operated by LCS Corrections Services, a for-profit company.

Washington: On December 11, 2012, three guards at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla were taken to a hospital after being injured during a riot. According to DOC public information officer Shari Hall, “multiple offenders” attacked the guards in a common area in the facility’s West Complex. Nine prisoners were placed in segregation following the incident, and the West Complex was put on temporary lockdown. Hall said prison officials were investigating the cause of the disturbance.

Washington: Benton County jail prisoner Kevin T. Culp, 29, died on December 25, 2012 after being shocked with a Taser. Culp reportedly had a physical altercation with guards at the jail and bit them on December 17; after being Tasered he was placed in a restraint chair, where he became unresponsive. He died at a hospital eight days later. Culp reportedly had a medical condition that resulted in seizures; he had suffered a seizure while driving, which led to a fatal accident and vehicular manslaughter charges, resulting in his incarceration. According to news reports, he said he couldn’t afford to buy the medication he needed to prevent seizures.

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