News in Brief
Alabama: Six people, including an Alabama state prison guard and two prisoners, were arrested on April 10, 2014 for their roles in a large-scale meth operation. Phillip Burgin, 23, was employed at the Kilby Correctional Facility before being stopped in Oklahoma while transporting 30 pounds of the drug. The prisoners, Alberto Trejo and Gumaro Calles, incarcerated at two other Alabama facilities, are believed to have helped orchestrate distribution of the meth using contraband cell phones. Also arrested were Stephanie Auban, 41, William Thomas Crane II, 36, and Miguel Calles-Gutierrez. All face federal charges that carry sentences ranging from 10 years to life.
Arizona: Joseph Andrew Dekenipp, incarcerated at the Pinal County jail, escaped on February 14, 2014 for a Valentine’s Day date with his sweetheart. He suffered serious cuts while climbing two walls and squeezing through razor wire, and was arrested after he arrived at a local bar and grill to meet his girlfriend. Dekenipp now faces an escape charge in addition to his initial charges of suspicion of vehicle theft, trafficking in stolen property, driving on a suspended license and unlawful flight.
Arizona: A racially-charged brawl at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Winslow left several prisoners hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. The fight broke out on March 20, 2014 between several dozen Black and Hispanic prisoners. Guards deployed non-lethal measures to quell the disturbance and the unit was locked down. Doug Nick, communications director for the Arizona Department of Corrections, said the incident was under criminal investigation.
Australia: Smoked oysters and premium ice cream sundaes were a planned distraction for prisoners expected to suffer from nicotine withdrawal following a May 5, 2014 smoking ban at all jails and prisons in Queensland. Officials anticipated an uptick in prison violence from the mood swings associated with quitting smoking, and corrections staff were provided with specialized training to deal with the issue. Employees as well as prisoners are subject to the smoking ban.
California: U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced on March 27, 2014 that a contract guard at the federal Taft Correctional Institution in the San Joaquin Valley was indicted on charges related to smuggling drugs and other contraband into the MTC-operated facility. Ramon Cano, 28, allegedly conspired with prisoner Gerardo Alvarez-Montanez to bring heroin, methamphetamine, money and cell phones into the prison. A grand jury indictment charged the two men with conspiring to provide and possess contraband, distribution of a controlled substance and bribery of a public official. Montanez pleaded guilty to conspiracy on June 23, 2014 and was sentenced in September to five years in prison; Cano pleaded guilty in August 2014 and is scheduled to be sentenced on December 15, 2014.
Connecticut: Steven Wolff, a former utility system repair foreman at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, was sentenced on March 12, 2014 to five months in prison for having sex with a prisoner. Wolff and the victim met in the boiler area to engage in sexual relations on several occasions. Another prisoner was given hair dye, candy, over-the-counter medication, greeting cards and other contraband for acting as a lookout for the pair. Wolff had previously pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a ward on August 6, 2013.
District of Columbia: On April 15, 2014, President Obama granted commutation to a man whose federal prison sentence had been unlawfully extended by a typo in a court document. Ceasar Cantu, who was sentenced to 15 years, filed a motion to correct the error, which was denied by U.S. District Court Judge Jackson Kiser as being untimely. Cantu had been sentenced to 3½ extra years based on a mistake in his pre-sentence report that raised his base offense level. White House officials said Obama’s decision to reduce Cantu’s sentence was because there was no other legal way to correct the mistake. Cantu is now scheduled for release in May 2015.
Florida: Highlands County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Nell Hays announced on March 2, 2014 that prisoners at the county jail had tested positive for scabies. Hays said jail staff had quickly moved into an “aggressive prevention and control mode” to quell the outbreak. Oral medications were provided to over 400 prisoners and all bedding, towels and uniforms, as well as the jail housing units, were to be treated. Scabies is a highly contagious skin rash caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. Prisoners who had been released around the time of the outbreak were advised to contact their doctors or the county health department.
Florida: On April 1, 2014, former Florida State Fraternal Order of Police general counsel Anthony M. Livoti, Jr., 65, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of more than $800 million. Livoti was the only one of 12 defendants who did not accept a plea bargain. A jury found Livoti guilty after a three-month trial; he had originally faced up to 80 years on three fraud and conspiracy counts, and was found not guilty on 20 other related charges. He was also ordered to pay over $826 million in restitution.
Georgia (Europe): Seventeen prisoners at the Geguti Penitentiary in the Eurasian nation of Georgia were hospitalized on February 10, 2014 after protesting mistreatment in the penal system by stabbing themselves. Hundreds of other prisoners participated in a hunger strike during the same protest action. Georgia’s Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance, Sozar Subari, denied the allegations of mistreatment and instead blamed Mafia leaders for initiating the hunger strike.
Georgia (U.S.): An attorney for Douglas County District Attorney David McDade announced on April 2, 2014 that McDade would retire from his position with the county. McDade had been under investigation for inappropriate spending and unauthorized use of county vehicles. A Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe was completed and McDade’s attorney, Drew Findling, told news reporters that the case would not be presented to a grand jury. The investigation ended on September 26, 2014 when McDade’s former office manager, Tammie Agan, pleaded guilty to 7 misdemeanor counts of theft by taking. She was ordered to pay $7,400 in restitution.
Indiana: Officials at the Marion County Jail said cell blocks at the facility are used for different purposes up to six times a week, resulting in the confusion that led a female prisoner to be locked in a cell block with nine men on March 25, 2014. Although the woman alleged no wrongdoing by the other prisoners, that was not the first time such a mix-up occurred at the facility. Eight months earlier a woman had been locked in a cell with a male prisoner, whom she claimed sexually assaulted her. Marion County Lt. Col. Gary Tingle said the jail had implemented new safeguards to ensure such a mistake would not happen again.
Israel: On April 10, 2014, an Israeli court imposed a fine equivalent to $1,449 and loss of visitation privileges on a Palestinian prisoner, Abdul Karim Rimawi, who had smuggled his sperm to his wife, resulting in the birth of a baby boy. Although other Palestinian prisoners have successfully provided their wives with sperm to conceive children, according to a statement issued by the Palestinian Prisoner Club Association, “The punishment of Rimawi is the first such kind of punishment in the history of [the Israeli] courts.”
Kentucky: Jail intake employee Joshua Ayers had been reprimanded at least eleven times for various policy violations at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, but remained employed until he was placed on administrative leave without pay following his arrest on March 24, 2014 for allegedly stealing $100 from a prisoner being booked into the facility. Surveillance video from the booking area showed Ayers leaving the room with the prisoner’s property; suspicious co-workers notified the police department’s Public Integrity Unit, which opened an internal investigation.
Michigan: Jonathan Kermeen, a former Ottawa County jailer, pleaded guilty in February 2014 to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and was sentenced on March 10, 2014 to five to fifteen years in prison. Kermeen admitted to having sexual contact with a female prisoner on two occasions, as well as to a third incident involving another prisoner. His plea deal included an agreement that prosecutors would not pursue additional charges. PLN previously reported Kermeen’s suspension and subsequent arrest. [See: PLN, June 2014, p.56].
Mississippi: On March 31, 2014, a riot at the Hinds County Detention Center left one prisoner dead, seven others injured and the unit where the fight occurred in ruins. Markuieze Sherod Bennett, 21, died from stab wounds, but no employees were injured according to authorities. The county’s Board of Supervisors declared an emergency at the jail and said the county is looking into the possibility of building a new facility. A spokesman for the Board said the age and condition of the jail was to blame for the fight, and that the normal bidding process would be set aside to allow the quick purchase of new radios and cameras for the detention center.
Missouri: A former guard at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield was sentenced to six years in prison on March 31, 2014 for hiring a hit man to kill his wife’s ex-husband. Robert W. Jones contacted a prisoner at the facility while he was employed there, and asked for help in the murder-for-hire scheme. Jones is a veteran, and two doctors testified at sentencing how post traumatic stress disorder played a role in his actions. Sentencing guidelines recommended eight to ten years for the charge of using a telephone with the intent that a murder be committed for payment. Jones had been arrested after providing $1,500 to an undercover FBI agent to commit the murder.
Montana: On February 23, 2014, prisoners reported a bad smell in the west block of the Ravalli County jail. Several days later, jail officials announced that the odor had come from a propane exhaust in the boiler. A number of prisoners reported headaches, nausea and burning eyes, and three people were treated and released at a local hospital; prisoners were evacuated to the jail’s library while the boiler area was ventilated. Carbon monoxide levels were checked before the prisoners returned to the cell block.
New Mexico: Torry Chambers was indicted on eight counts of rape on March 25, 2014 for using his position as a Bernalillo County jailer to not only repeatedly rape prisoners, but to assist a friend in committing rapes as well. At the time of Chambers’ indictment, the county had already settled a lawsuit filed by three of the prisoners for $925,000. Due to a clause in a union contract, Chambers was placed on paid rather than unpaid leave while an internal investigation was conducted.
New York: Kimberly Ricci, a former teacher at the Washington Correctional Facility in Comstock, was arrested on February 7, 2014. State officials determined that Ricci, 24, had been bringing heroin and needles into the prison, using the drugs and having sex with a prisoner. She was arraigned and released on her own recognizance, then pleaded guilty to a felony drug count on October 1, 2014. She faces up to 7 years in prison; the prisoner was not charged.
New York: Elizabeth Camue Martinez, 33, and her prisoner-husband, Andres Martinez, 28, were indicted on February 6, 2014 in connection with the overdose deaths of two prisoners at the Attica Correctional Facility. The bodies of Saleem Ali and Glendon Jackson were discovered in their cells on December 5, 2013; both had died from a lethal dose of pure Fentanyl, an opiate about 100 times stronger than morphine. The September 2013 death of another Attica prisoner, Avery Cureton, was also connected to the drugs. Mrs. Martinez was charged with smuggling heroin and marijuana into the prison and giving it to her husband. She pleaded guilty to intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute on September 24, 2014.
Nigeria: Marilyn Ogar, spokeswoman for Nigeria’s State Security Service, announced on March 31, 2014 that 21 people had died in a shootout during an attempted prison escape in Abuja, the nation’s capital. Ogar declined to identify whether the dead were prisoners or security personnel; however, a prison security source confirmed that at least one guard had been killed. Jail breaks are common in Nigeria. On March 14, 2014, members of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group, freed dozens of prisoners from Nigeria’s main military barracks.
North Carolina: On April 10, 2014, Frank Arthur Janssen, the father of a Raleigh-area prosecutor, was reunited with his family after a five-day kidnapping ordeal. Five people were arrested for their participation in the plot, which was intended to benefit Kelvin Melton, a prisoner serving a life sentence, whom Janssen’s daughter had prosecuted. An FBI hostage rescue team located and recovered Mr. Janssen; he was unharmed. Neighbors said Janssen is a high-security government contractor, and it was initially believed the kidnapping was related to his job.
Oklahoma: Frank Kirk, a 70-year-old attorney, tricked a female prisoner into believing that he represented her and convinced her to expose herself and masturbate in exchange for “legal fees.” Kirk was arrested on five misdemeanor counts of lewdness on March 3, 2014 after six visits with the prisoner, during which he smuggled in a sex toy, lubricant, baby wipes and a cell phone in his laptop bag. The woman agreed to cooperate with investigators after she realized Kirk was not her lawyer. Kirk was further charged on March 31 with a felony count of attempting to prevent a witness from testifying, after trying to make the prisoner withdraw her statement. In October 2014, Kirk received a suspended sentence of one year and a $50 fine; he was also ordered to surrender his law license.
Oklahoma: A nurse employed by Corrections Corporation of America at the company’s Cimarron Correctional Facility was charged on March 25, 2014 with sexual battery and providing contraband to a prisoner. Linda Bogaski, 49, allegedly touched the prisoner’s genitals and brought him tobacco and a cell phone. Bogaski was informed of the charges and ordered to voluntarily appear in court before an arrest warrant was issued. She made her appearance and subsequently pleaded guilty on June 20, 2014. As part of a plea deal, Bogaski was placed on one year’s probation, fined $500 and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation and perform 100 hours of community service.
Rhode Island: On March 18, 2014, DOC Director A.T. Wall placed four employees on administrative leave after a local television station reported the results of an internal investigation into a séance held in the office of Assistant Corrections Director David McCauley. McCauley allegedly summoned prison guard Heather Anderson – who calls herself “The Mystical Medium” and claims to talk to the dead – to perform psychic readings in his office. McCauley was suspended along with Robert Vitale, warden of the DOC’s central office, Gerald Masso, a security specialist, and DOC K9 officer Anthony Lucca.
South Carolina: A mentally ill pretrial detainee at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center was assaulted by former guard Robin Smith on February 11, 2012. [See: PLN, Oct. 2013, p.56]. After entering a guilty plea to a civil rights violation, Smith was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release in April 2014. “What Robin Smith did was wrong,” said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles. “At the base level, Mr. Smith kicked a man around who was so mentally ill he could not understand or follow the directions Smith was giving him. No just society can allow that kind of conduct on the part of a corrections officer to go unpunished.”
South Carolina: On March 18, 2014, DOC officials announced that several prisoners had been identified as the “stars” of a viral rap video that appeared to have been filmed and posted online from a prison cell at the Kershaw Correctional Institution. The video is believed to have been recorded with a contraband cell phone, and DOC officials said they had increased security and adopted new counter-measures to combat the flow of phones into the facility. The prisoners were transferred to other institutions.
Tennessee: A Lake County grand jury returned indictments against five people accused of smuggling drugs into the Northwest Correctional Complex. Remeka Carraway, Latonya Johnson, Meri Kristin Doyle, Chelsey Pitts and prisoner Monterious Bell each face one count of introduction of contraband into a penal facility and conspiracy to introduce contraband into a penal facility. Doyle, Pitts, Carraway and Johnson were also charged with possession of a schedule VI drug with intent to deliver. Doyle and Pitts were formerly employed as guards at the prison, but had resigned several months prior to their March 12, 2014 arrests.
Texas: Following an internal affairs investigation, Harris County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Dominique Duncan, 23, outside the county’s jail complex on February 10, 2014 and charged him with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Duncan, who had been employed as a civilian jail guard since May 2013, was in possession of painkillers only available with a prescription. He was booked into the jail and later released on $10,000 bond.
Texas: The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department launched an investigation into a December 12, 2013 incident in which Robert Merrill, 30, was able to bring a loaded gun into the booking area of the Lew Sterrett Justice Center. “If a weapon makes it into a secure location, it’s a perfect example of incompetence and is shocking,” said Merrill’s attorney, Phillip Hayes. Surveillance video showed Merrill putting an item into the trash, where a loaded 9mm handgun was later found by another prisoner on garbage detail. Merrill now faces additional charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. On March 17, 2014, Dallas County sheriff’s deputy Reginald Harris was demoted after an internal investigation found he violated policy by failing to ensure that Merrill was searched.
Texas: On March 5, 2014, TDCJ Office of Inspector General investigators arrested former Eastham Unit prison guard Kevin Vallery for suspicion of bribery and possession of contraband in a penal institution. Vallery, who was discovered with two bundles of tobacco in his pants, admitted to accepting $600 from a prisoner to smuggle the tobacco into the facility. A search of Vallery’s vehicle in the parking lot led to the discovery of $600 cash in the center console. He was taken to the Houston County Jail and subsequently released on $25,000 bond.
Wisconsin: On March 31, 2014, a prisoner performing grounds maintenance at the Rock County jail discovered Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) growing on the property, picked it and brought it into the jail. The hallucinogenic plant was then ingested by six prisoners. When they began acting strangely, medical staff was called in and the prisoners were taken to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center. Jimson weed is not illegal, but jail officials were considering what charges, if any, could be filed against the prisoners for bringing it into the facility.
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