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

News in Brief

Arkansas: The Phillips County jail closed on April 30, 2013 after it failed to pass a state inspection. Sheriff Neal Byrd would not go into detail as to why the 30-year-old facility failed the inspection, but said 60 prisoners had been transferred to other jails and 18 employees would lose their jobs. According to news reports, the inspection cited broken locks, human waste overflowing into cells and no working smoke detectors or fire alarms. Additionally, prisoners had access to items they could fashion into weapons, including extension cords and pieces of metal.

California: Two days after a state prison guard filed a disability claim alleging an injury to his back, he posted entries to a Facebook page that included video from a mountain bike race in which he was participating. As a result, Ryan Patrick Wenker, 35, was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the state and spend 45 days in the Sacramento County Jail following his conviction for disability fraud. To announce Wenker’s conviction, District Attorney Jan Scully posted the news on Facebook on April 9, 2013.

California: USP Atwater officials released initial details about a shooting that occurred on the prison’s recreation yard on March 26, 2013 but declined to comment further, citing security concerns and pending criminal and disciplinary charges against the prisoners involved. According to news reports, two prisoners began to assault a third and a warning shot was fired by a guard after they failed to comply with orders to stop the attack. The guard then shot one of the prisoners in the lower torso; he was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. A second prisoner was medically assessed and treated at the facility.

Canada: John Boncore, 61, was found dead at his home in Canada on March 13, 2013. He was the only prisoner convicted of murder following the Attica prison rebellion of 1971, for the beating death of guard William Quinn. Thirty-two prisoners and 11 staff members died during the Attica uprising. Boncore, also known as John B. Hill, was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison but pardoned in 1976 by then-Governor Hugh Carey. Following his release, Boncore made his name in Canada as a civil rights and peace activist. In August 2013, the British Columbia coroner’s office reported that his death was caused by alcohol and cocaine use and an enlarged heart.

District of Columbia: In April 2013, Tameka Fleming filed a $3 million lawsuit against the D.C. Jail and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Fleming was transported to the D.C. Jail following her arrest, where she was ordered by guard Jannease Johnson to remove her hair extensions and false eyelashes before being sent to the Correctional Treatment Facility, operated by CCA. After briefly attempting to speed Fleming along in removing the extensions and eyelashes, Johnson allegedly punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed her. Fleming claims in her suit that she suffered bruises, breathing problems and emotional distress from the assault.

Florida: Two Manatee County Sheriff’s Office employees were disciplined following an investigation that ended in March 2013. Sgt. Allen Miller resigned after being placed on administrative leave and Phillip Young was to serve a 129-hour suspension without pay for their involvement in sexual affairs with other employees at the Manatee County Jail. In Miller’s case, it was determined that he had an ongoing sexual affair with a former deputy from 2007 to 2012. He also was the subject of a 2005 complaint by another employee for making inappropriate comments in the workplace, and acknowledged he had consensual affairs with several other jail employees. Young and another deputy carried on an affair from 2003 to 2012 and on numerous occasions had sexual encounters inside the jail and in their personal vehicles in the visitor’s parking lot. Sheriff W. Brad Steube said both men’s sexual escapades were “unbecoming” to their positions at the sheriff’s office.

Georgia: DeKalb County jail guard Zel Mitchell was arrested on March 21, 2013 and fired after he allegedly engaged in sex acts with a male prisoner in exchange for offering the prisoner food and other contraband. Another prisoner discovered what was happening and tipped off investigators. Mitchell was charged with sexual assault on a person in custody, public indecency and violation of oath of office.

Hawaii: A prison guard remains employed by the Hawaii Department of Public Safety while Honolulu Police and internal affairs officers at the Women’s Community Correctional Center investigate allegations that he twice sexually assaulted a prisoner and assaulted at least two others. The grand jury indicted Irwin Ah-Hoy on March 21, 2013 on four counts of sex assault against an inmate. Prosecutors, who have DNA evidence, allege that Ah-Hoy forced the female prisoner into a staff-only bathroom to commit the assaults. Attorney Myles Breiner noted that “part of the problem is for the inmate to bring this kind of complaint, they put themselves at risk.” He said the prisoner had been moved to the Federal Detention Center to protect her from potential retaliation after Ah Hoy was indicted.

Idaho: An investigation by the Idaho Department of Correction’s Office of Professional Standards was turned over to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office and led to the arrest of Roberto Guiller Escobedo, employed at the Idaho State Correctional Institution. Escobedo was arrested on March 14, 2013 on two counts of sexual contact with a prisoner. The Department of Correction said it was a personnel matter and declined to clarify whether there were two victims or two incidents involving the same victim.

Indiana: Gary Miller, a former guard at the Indiana Women’s Prison, pleaded guilty in April 2013 to engaging in sexual intercourse with a prisoner in a supervisor’s bathroom at the facility. He was sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term and nearly three years of probation, but will not have to register as a sex offender.

Iowa: Tera Grace Harris, 25, was incarcerated at the Johnson County jail on April 7, 2013 when she committed the heinous crime of “sporkicide” by intentionally breaking a supposedly indestructible eating utensil. She was charged with fifth-degree criminal mischief, although she maintained that the spork had broken due to the toughness of the roast beef she was served. Two days later the Johnson County Attorney’s Office released a statement saying the criminal charge had been dropped despite the destruction of the utensil, which was valued at $16.

Kentucky: A murder charge is pending against East Kentucky Correctional Complex prisoner Eric S. Chapman, who, Kentucky State Police say, used a homemade shank to stab fellow prisoner Michael S. Lynch in the neck on April 21, 2013. Lynch died the next day. The weapon was not recovered and police think Chapman flushed it down a toilet. Prior to killing Lynch, Chapman had been eligible for parole in June 2013. The attack occurred in a segregation unit during recreation time.

Maryland: On the morning of April 27, 2013, around 500 cell doors simultaneously unlocked at Montgomery County’s main jail. Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, said the door locks had previously malfunctioned on April 24. Jail officials, maintenance workers and outside contractors worked to find the source of the problem while about 20 police cars guarded the perimeter of the facility. The locks were reset within an hour and no prisoners tried to escape.

Mexico: In the latest of a series of violent incidents, an early-morning prison brawl on April 27, 2013 left 11 prisoners dead and more than 65 injured. The uprising at the La Pila facility in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi was started by a group of prisoners wielding homemade knives, who were allegedly stealing money from other prisoners. San Luis Potosi’s governor, Fernando Toranzo, ordered an investigation into the incident. Mexico’s prison system has long been beset with violence and corruption. [See, e.g., PLN, Aug. 2013, p.49; May 2011, p.38].

Nevada: On April 23, 2013, a former North Las Vegas jail guard was indicted in federal court on excessive force and obstruction charges. Stuart Barlow Johnson is accused of slamming a handcuffed prisoner onto a concrete floor in November 2008. In addition to allegedly violating the prisoner’s civil rights, he is also accused of falsifying an incident report. Although Johnson was fired several months after the floor-slamming incident, he was rehired in September 2010 after an arbitrator overturned his termination. He lost his job again when the city closed the jail in 2012.

North Carolina: James Bell, 44, a guard at the Odom Correctional Institute, was charged on April 30, 2013 with stabbing another guard, Ronald Vaughan, at a convenience store over a work-related dispute. The men had been arguing about Bell’s paperwork and the disagreement escalated into the off-site altercation. Bell was charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Vaughan was taken to a Greenville hospital for surgery.

Ohio: A former guard at the Southeast Ohio Correctional Institution pleaded no contest to dereliction of duty charges on March 4, 2013. Amber N. Stanley, 25, accused of engaging in phone sex with a male prisoner and supplying drugs to co-workers, was sentenced to 180 days in prison with 180 days suspended plus two years probation and a $100 fine. She was also banned from any contact with the prisoner or the facility itself. Officials had received a tip that the prisoner was bragging about having a relationship with Stanley. Court documents indicate Stanley admitted to sending explicit pictures of herself to the prisoner and receiving calls for phone sex from him.

Oklahoma: A prisoner was found dead at the Rogers County Jail on April 29, 2013, electrocuted beside his CPAP machine, which is used to treat sleep apnea. While the death of Leslie Paul Jones, 47, has not been ruled a suicide, a friend said she received a letter from him which she believes was an indication that he intended to kill himself. “The look on their face should be priceless,” Jones allegedly wrote. “I was going to do it on the first but I don’t have everything ready.” Sheriff’s officials and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation both declined to comment. Jones had been jailed on sex charges that included rape and incest.

Pennsylvania: Ritz D. Williams, Jr., 32, was sentenced on May 15, 2013 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the violent murder of Alvin Allery, a fellow prisoner at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex. His co-conspirator, Shawn Cooya, was sentenced on March 18, 2013 to life in prison for premeditated murder. According to court documents, Williams and Cooya stabbed Allery 10 times with a homemade knife and kicked him repeatedly in the head and torso. The September 2005 attack was captured on surveillance video.

Pennsylvania: Jefferson County jail guard Donald T. Clark was arrested on March 21, 2013 following a Pennsylvania State Police investigation into inappropriate sexual contact with prisoners. According to a criminal complaint, at least four prisoners have claimed that Clark touched them inappropriately. He was charged with sexual assault and other offenses.

Peru: Juan Navarro spent 36 years and eight months in the harsh conditions of San Pedro prison in Lima before being released in April 2013. His memory had faded due to dementia and suspected mental illness, and he had no recollection of his age, whether he had appeared before a judge or whether he was convicted. Prison and judicial officials don’t know either. Navarro entered the prison system in 1976 after being accused of killing his mother. At some point he was transferred to the San Pedro facility, but his file was left behind and destroyed in a fire, and there is no record that he was ever convicted. Regardless, according to Peruvian law he should have been released long ago.

South Carolina: In May 2013, Sean Echols, 29, was indicted in federal court in connection with a conspiracy to kill Robert Johnson, a captain at the Lee Correctional Institution. According to the indictment, Echols was paid $6,000 to murder Johnson and the hit was reportedly coordinated by two prisoners using an illegal cell phone. Johnson, 59, was shot six times by Echols, a former prisoner, in March 2010. He survived the shooting and retired the following year. Johnson is currently suing 20 cell phone companies and cellular tower owners, claiming they could have blocked prisoners’ cell phone calls but failed to do so.

South Carolina: Robert Sweeper III, 51, suffered a collapsed lung, two broken ribs and a fractured vertebrae at the hands of jail guard Robin Smith, 37. Smith was fired and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, while two other guards, Todd Andrew Hollins, 51, and Olympia Latoya Tuten, 36, were charged with obstruction of justice for failing to report the incident and lying to investigators. Four other jail employees were disciplined or terminated. As a result of the February 15, 2013 incident, the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center will install six additional cameras near the special housing unit where the assault occurred. Sweeper, who was homeless and charged with trespassing at the time he was brutally beaten by Smith, was hospitalized for two months. He filed a lawsuit against the county on April 11, 2013.

Tennessee: Anthony Norton, 39, was arrested on July 28, 2013 on charges of aggravated sexual battery and violating the state’s sex offender registration law. He is accused of groping a 4-year-old boy; the incident was witnessed by a 7-year-old, who later identified Norton. Norton had been released from state prison just five days prior to the incident after serving approximately 20 years for two counts of child rape. He was jailed with bail set at $500,000.

Tennessee: On May 1, 2013, Acting U.S. Attorney David Rivera announced that Derek Wayne Turner, 38, a former Maury County jail guard, had pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle contraband into the facility in exchange for cash bribes. As previously reported in PLN, Turner was indicted on federal charges along with two prisoners, the mother of one of the prisoners and another woman. The group had conspired to smuggle drugs, cigarettes and other contraband into the jail. [See: PLN, Jan. 2013, p.1]. Turner has not yet been sentenced.

Texas: As prison officials executed prisoner Richard Cobb, 29, by lethal injection on April 25, 2013, just before the drugs took effect he raised his head and shouted “Wow! That is great. That is awesome! Thank you, warden!” After he spoke, his head fell back and a physician pronounced him dead about 15 minutes later. Cobb had been sentenced to death for abducting and killing a man outside Rusk, southeast of Dallas, in 2002. He was convicted of kidnapping Kenneth Vandever, 37, during a convenience store robbery, then shooting him and leaving him in a field.

Texas: Nichelle Derricks, 38, a former parole officer, was sentenced on May 1, 2013 to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty to taking cash and gifts from Alan Todd May, a Dallas businessman whose parole she supervised. According to the indictment, Derricks allowed May to travel outside the state without approval and make prohibited financial transactions, and admitted to accepting bribes from him in the form of meals, furniture, household goods and cash. U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade said of Derricks’ actions, “It’s unbelievably disappointing to me.”

Virginia: On April 16, 2013, five prisoners at the Norfolk City Jail barred their cell door by tying bed sheets to it, then demanded reduced sentences, Chinese food, a cell phone and a call to Governor Bob McDonnell. The prisoners issued their ultimatums for about two hours until deputies forced their way into the cell. The prisoners were not criminally charged but face disciplinary action. Spokeswoman Paula Miller said the prisoners were considered “high custody level.”

Washington: Wapato city jail prisoner Shelley Utt became pregnant with twins as the result of a sexual relationship with a guard. An internal investigation revealed that guard David Madril, 29, and Utt, 32, began a relationship during her first stay at the jail. Utt reportedly gave Madril her phone number and the pair had sex at a hotel in Seattle after she was released. She was subsequently booked into the jail a second time and they continued their relationship, having sex in an officer’s bathroom. Madril allegedly brought Utt the Plan B pill on two occasions and pressured her into having an abortion after she became pregnant; his name was listed on her Planned Parenthood patient file. Madril resigned without admitting guilt in March 2013.

West Virginia: In April 2013, attorney Mike Woelfel asked Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Paul Zakaib to set aside his client’s $9,250 settlement in a 2011 lawsuit against former jail guard William Roy Wilson. Woelfel’s client, Melissa Lusk, had sued Wilson for sexually abusing her when she was a prisoner at the Southern Regional Jail. Woelfel asked Judge Zakaib to reopen the lawsuit after officials with the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority allegedly committed fraud by hiding documents concerning Wilson’s employment history. An attorney for the jail authority denied the allegations.

Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on April 16, 2013 that Sandra V. Alvarez, 44, a probation/parole agent for the state Department of Corrections, had been charged with three felony counts of misconduct in office. According to the criminal complaint, it was common knowledge at the DOC office where Alvarez worked that she asked clients for money and threatened them with revocation or deportation if they did not comply. Alvarez allegedly “shook down” three of her clients for $2,850, in violation of the DOC’s prohibition against probation/parole agents using their positions to obtain money from parolees and probationers.

Wisconsin: On April 20, 2013 a state trooper stopped to investigate a car parked along Interstate 90/94, and discovered a marijuana pipe in plain view. A further search of the vehicle uncovered a duffel bag containing 82 grams of cocaine, 8 grams of marijuana and other drug paraphernalia, including a red straw with white powdery residue. As a result, charges were filed against Randy S. Anderson, 52, a 20-year veteran state prison guard employed at Minnesota’s Stillwater facility. Anderson, who faces disciplinary action by the Minnesota Department of Corrections in addition to the criminal charges, was released from jail after posting $10,000 bond.

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