News in Brief
Alaska: On January 12, 2014, twenty-year-old detainee Jairus Nelson slipped under a garage door at the Dillingham jail and fled wearing nothing but his underwear. He ran into some nearby woods and later attempted to jump into several passing cars to evade officers. Unfortunately for Nelson, after several unsuccessful attempts to find a ride to freedom, he tried to enter the car of off-duty policeman Dan Decker. Decker recognized the escapee and held him until other officers arrived. Nelson was returned to the jail, given a new set of clothes and charged with felony escape.
Arizona: Anthony James Marotta resigned from his job as a guard at ASPC Perryville after he was allegedly caught receiving oral sex from a female prisoner in the back of a transport vehicle. Another prisoner was driving the vehicle when she witnessed the incident in the rearview mirror; she reported it to prison authorities, and Marotta was arrested on December 31, 2013. He admitted to the sex act and to an earlier incident of sexual misconduct
Arizona: A prisoner being held on death row at the Eyman complex was found dead in his cell on January 27, 2014. According to the Pinal County Medical Examiner’s Office, Gregory Dickens, 48, committed suicide. Dickens had been sentenced to death after he and an accomplice robbed and murdered a couple at a rest stop near Yuma in 1991.
Australia: Convicted drug dealer Dino Joseph Antonio Diano was mistakenly released on parole two years early and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He appealed the decision after being returned to prison, but on March 5, 2014 the Western Australia Court of Appeal ruled that his earliest release date was in May 2015. Prior to his drug conviction Diano had been a prominent businessman in Alice Springs, and hosted Prince Charles and Princess Diana at his home during their 1983 tour of Australia.
California: On January 24, 2014, a former Marine who operated a Pasadena youth boot camp was sentenced to four years and four months in state prison and will be required to register as a sex offender. Kelvin Bernard McFarland, 43, who preferred to be called “Sgt. Mac,” pleaded no contest to multiple charges stemming from two cases of sexual assault involving three 14-year-old girls. McFarland’s offenses included sexual assault, kidnapping, extortion, child abuse, false imprisonment, unlawful use of a badge, sexual penetration by a foreign object, oral copulation of a person under 16, lewd act on a child and unlawful sexual intercourse.
California: Christina Marie Lugo, 31, a Fresno County Superior Court clerk, was arrested on December 31, 2013 and released on bond the same day for allegedly helping jail prisoner Ricky Modesto attempt to intimidate a witness in a 2012 assault case. After Modesto bonded out on felony battery charges, he failed to appear for a court hearing; a warrant was issued and he was subsequently arrested in November 2012. Fresno County sheriff’s spokesman Chris Curtice said Lugo then tried to arrange communications between Modesto and three other co-conspirators, all gang members, to intimidate a witness. Lugo and two of the co-conspirators were charged with conspiracy to dissuade a victim and the third was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Florida: Reports from the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center described a brawl between two prison guards on January 13, 2014 that injured a female officer who attempted to break up the fight. The internal reports, obtained by Miami-Dade TV affiliate NBC 6, said a guard identified as “R.W.” became angry when asked to replace an item on a prisoner’s meal tray. He first pushed the female guard, then began to physically assault another male officer, “K.A.” The reports further indicated that R.W. may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Florida: In the aftermath of the jailhouse beating of prisoner Jody Holland in May 2013, the former commander of the DeSoto County Jail was sentenced on February 10, 2014 to three years’ probation and community service. Raymond Kuglar pleaded guilty to lying to an FBI agent in an attempt to cover up the attack. Four jail guards, Cpl. Steven Rizza and deputies Vincent Carlucci, Jonathan Mause and Ashley Cross, were fired for their roles in the beating and engaging in a conspiracy to conceal the incident. Mause and Cross face pending charges, while Carlucci has been convicted.
Georgia: Zel Tirrell Mitchell, 43, a former DeKalb County jail guard, was indicted on February 27, 2014 for having sexual contact with a prisoner in exchange for food and contraband. The prisoner stated he was not forced into the encounter. Mitchell had been fired following an internal investigation; he was charged with violation of oath and sexual assault by persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority. An additional charge of indecent exposure was dropped. [See: PLN, Oct. 2013, p.56].
Greece: On January 9, 2014, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that the United States was concerned about the escape of Greek prisoner Christodoulos Xiros, 56, who was serving six life sentences for acting as a hitman for the revolutionary group known as November 17. “We call on the Greek government to locate Xiros and return him to prison,” Psaki said. November 17 was responsible for the deaths of 23 people, including a CIA station chief, prior to disbanding in 2002; it is still included on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Xiros escaped while on an eight-day New Years furlough from prison. The furlough program is now under review.
Idaho: Seanjay Wright, 36, worked as an Ada County jail guard for two years before being arrested on January 1, 2014 on two felony counts of sexual contact with a prisoner. He was booked into the same jail where he was employed after an investigation by the Boise Police Department found evidence that he had sex with a female prisoner on two occasions. Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney said Wright had “violated the trust of the community and let down the other 650 men and women working for the Sheriff’s Office who take great pride in their ethical conduct.”
Illinois: On January 23, 2014, Sean McGilvery, a heroin dealer who catered to St. Clair County judges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. One of his regular customers, former judge Michael Cook, was arrested last year in an investigation that included the cocaine-related death of a fellow judge at Cook’s hunting cabin. Cook pleaded guilty to federal weapons and heroin charges. On March 28, 2014, a U.S. District Court rejected Cook’s plea deal of 18 months in prison and instead sentenced the disgraced judge to 24 months’ incarceration.
Indiana: Prison officials dispatched to a security tower at the Miami Correctional Facility on December 23, 2013 found 56-year-old guard Zane E. Rasmussen dead of an apparent heart attack. Indiana DOC public information officer Ann Hubbard said it was believed that Rasmussen had nitroglycerin pills on hand, but was unable to reach them before he died. He was alone in the tower, and officials first suspected a problem when he failed to make an hourly welfare check call as required by prison policy.
Kansas: On January 22, 2014, Melinda Trusty, 47, pleaded no contest to having sex with a prisoner in a clinic restroom at the Lansing Correctional Facility. The former guard came under suspicion when prison officials noticed that prisoner Nathan M. Cunningham had been receiving letters that appeared to be written by an employee. In an interview, Trusty admitted to having sex with Cunningham, who had been assigned as a clinic worker. She was sentenced on March 19, 2014 to three years’ probation.
Libya: Approximately 90 prisoners escaped from Mager Prison in southern Zliten on February 15, 2014. Prison guards are suspected of collusion in the escape, the latest in a series of jailbreaks over the past year in which at least 1,700 prisoners have absconded with a low rate of recapture. In July 2013, 1,200 prisoners broke out from Benghazi’s Kuwaifiya Prison during a riot. Mass escapes have also occurred at the Bawabat Al-Jibs, Ajdabiya and Sebha prisons.
Louisiana: On January 6, 2014, a deputy at the Tangipahoa Parish jail was arrested before he could carry out a plan to smuggle contraband into the facility. Patrick Collins, 58, admitted to bringing in the contraband with intent to sell it to prisoners, according to Sheriff Daniel Edwards. Packages containing tobacco and marijuana were found in Collins’ work space. He was charged with a single count of malfeasance in office, two counts of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and possession of Schedule 1 narcotics with intent to distribute.
Michigan: Rather than face frigid temperatures outdoors, investigators with the MDOC Absconder Recovery Unit stayed behind their desks and focused on cold cases to pass the time. Their investigation led them to the whereabouts of 60-year-old Judy Lynn Hayman, who had walked away from the Detroit House of Corrections in April 1977 – 36 years earlier. On February 17, 2014, acting on a tip from Michigan authorities, police officers in San Diego, California were able to locate Hayman and take her into custody. The investigators’ victory turned to embarrassment, however, when Hayman, who had legally changed her name to Jamie Lewis, produced court documents that proved her sentence had been suspended in 1982.
Nebraska: A 15-year-old jailed on an armed robbery charge attacked and strangled Scotts Bluff County Detention Center guard Amanda Baker, 24, on February 14, 2014, killing her. The juvenile, Dylan Cardeilhac, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder; however, prosecutors later amended the charge to first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery. The state alleges that Cardeilhac killed Baker as he was trying to steal her keys during an escape attempt. Baker’s family has since filed a wrongful death claim against Scotts Bluff County. In May 2014, Cardeilhac was sentenced to 8 to 15 years on the original armed robbery charge.
Nevada: An elaborate scheme was uncovered at the Washoe County Jail that involved stolen identities and fraudulent commissary accounts. KOLO TV reported on February 4, 2014 that stolen credit card information was used by outsiders to place money on prisoners’ accounts, then the funds were given to the prisoners upon their release. Detectives described the fraud as “using the jail as an ATM.” As part of the scheme, at least two people were purposely arrested so they could cash out the stolen funds after leaving the jail.
New Jersey: On February 28, 2014, six pretrial detainees prevailed in a court action requiring the Middlesex County jail to provide computer equipment necessary to view evidence in their cases. Prisoners at the North Brunswick facility did not have access to CD, DVD or flash drive readers, and Superior Court Judge Bradley Ferencz ordered jail officials to “address the issue, kicking or screaming or not.” “E-discovery is here,” Ferencz told county counsel Benjamin Leibowitz, ruling that the jail had violated prisoners’ constitutional rights by preventing them from viewing all the evidence against them. The detainees were represented by the public defender’s office.
New Mexico: Albuquerque Metropolitan Detention Center guard Elijah Chavez was suspended with pay in February 2014 following the release of video footage that showed him repeatedly punching prisoner Mark Palacios. Chavez stated in a report that he felt he was in “survival mode” at the time of the assault. He was not charged with any crime, but Palacios, who was also pepper sprayed, was charged with battery on a peace officer. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office representatives said it was likely that the deputy who charged Palacios with battery did not watch the video.
New York: A love triangle involving three New York jail guards ended in a bloody confrontation on a Queens street corner on January 10, 2014. Jeffrey Ragland died after being shot by his romantic rival, Oniel Linton. The shooting occurred when Linton saw Ragland violently strike the men’s paramour, Salees Sales. Linton ran to the scene of the assault and knocked Ragland to the ground, then drew his weapon and shot him twice. Linton claimed Ragland was in the process of pulling a gun on him when he opened fire. Ragland, who had recently retired from the New York City Department of Correction, was carrying a Glock 17. No charges were filed against Linton.
Ohio: On January 27, 2014, Cuyahoga County jail guard Tim Thomas was sentenced to six months in jail for accepting a bribe from a prisoner in the form of $2,000 in cash and a used car valued at $500. Thomas pleaded guilty to bribery and falsification for his role in delaying the transfer of a jail prisoner to state custody; he will serve his time in protective custody.
Oklahoma: A prisoner at the GEO Group-operated Lawton Correctional Facility made several calls to 911 on a contraband cell phone before being found unconscious on the floor of his cell. Christopher Glass, 33, was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on January 30, 2014. Investigators said Glass’ body had bruises and scrapes, but an autopsy report released on April 14, 2014 determined his death was caused by a methamphetamine overdose.
Oregon: On January 27, 2014, The Oregonian reported details of a prisoner’s creative but unsuccessful plot to escape from the Snake River Correctional Institution. Michael J. Norwood crafted a dummy using peanut butter and his own hair, then posed the makeshift mannequin in his bunk with headphones and reading glasses to conceal his absence from his cell. Norwood had also fashioned a rope from rolls of dental floss, which he intended to use to scale security fences; however, he was captured in a prison recreation yard after being missing for only half an hour.
Philippines: A mass jailbreak occurred at the Leyte provincial jail in the town of Palo on January 30, 2014. Nearly 200 prisoners escaped around dawn, but most were recaptured within hours. It was unclear how the mass break-out occurred, though it was very clear why: Prisoners told investigators they escaped due to hunger from limited food and squalid conditions at the facility. They also complained of slow prosecutions in their cases. Each year dozens of escapes occur in the Philippines due to the dilapidated condition of the prisons and lax security.
Puerto Rico: Former prison guard Bernis Gonzalez Miranda, 27, received a 67.5-year prison sentence on January 28, 2014 for his role in providing armed security for drug dealers; he was one of 89 law enforcement officers and 44 other people arrested in an FBI undercover investigation called Operation Guard Shack. According to court testimony, Gonzalez Miranda received $2,000 each time he participated in a drug transaction. He was convicted of three counts of conspiring to possess with attempt to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine, plus three counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug transaction.
Tennessee: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed on January 10, 2014 that Grainger County jailer Jacob Scott Layel, the son of the county’s sheriff, was one of five former jail employees indicted on various misconduct charges following the escape of three prisoners from the facility in November 2013. The TBI conducted the investigation to identify security and operational flaws at the jail because the escape had gone unnoticed for several days. Sheriff Scott Layel, a chief deputy and one of the indicted employees were also named as defendants in an unrelated lawsuit filed by three female prisoners who said they were repeatedly raped at the jail.
Texas: On December 3, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen said corruption in the Cameron County legal system and judiciary was so pervasive that most people probably wouldn’t believe it. On that same day, former Texas state district judge Abel C. Limas surrendered to U.S. Marshals to begin serving a six-year federal prison term for accepting bribes to render favorable rulings in civil cases. Criminal charges against 12 defendants, all members of the Cameron County legal community, were brought after Limas’ misconduct was discovered. All but one were convicted.
Texas: Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg will keep her job despite a drunk driving arrest, some bad behavior while in jail and a civil case intended to force her from office. [See: PLN, Sept. 2013, p.56]. On December 11, 2013, Judge David Peeples ruled after three days of testimony that he would not remove Lehmberg as the top felony prosecutor in Travis County. Testimony during the hearing described Lehmberg’s drinking habits and medical conditions, but was not enough to convince Peeples to relieve her of her duties. The ruling ended months of speculation as to the future of Lehmberg’s role in Texas’ criminal justice system. On July 15, 2014, a lawsuit was filed against Lehmberg by a former state prosecutor who claimed he was fired for requesting an investigation into her actions.
Texas: On November 3, 2013, 37-year-old Sarah Tibbetts, an insulin-dependent diabetic, collapsed and died at the Irving jail. Following an investigation into her death, on January 24, 2014 two jail supervisors were fired, two guards were reprimanded and two other employees received counseling. Tibbetts’ mother, who lives in California, was contacted by jail officials on November 2, 2013 and asked to bring insulin to Texas. She told them it was impossible for her to travel to the jail, but warned that her daughter would die without insulin. Sarah Tibbetts had been incarcerated at the jail previously but was taken to a hospital for treatment during prior stays at the facility.
United Kingdom: Five guards at HM Prison Parc in South Wales denied wrongdoing in an alleged drug smuggling conspiracy, and, soon afterward, a court case against them fell apart when prisoners at the facility refused to testify. A sixth defendant, Philip Finselbach, pleaded guilty to involvement in the conspiracy, which according to anonymous sources involved smuggling cell phones, marijuana and heroin. On January 16, 2014, a judge declined to sentence Finselbach, who said he had feared for the safety of himself and his family if he did not participate in the scheme. HM Prison Parc is run by a private company, G4S.
Washington: On January 31, 2014, the Christian Science Monitor reported that in an effort to reduce food disposal costs and enrich a gardening program that provides vegetables for the prison’s kitchen and local food banks, the Monroe Correctional Complex has turned to vermiculture – the breeding and raising of earthworms. The program began with 200 red wigglers and has grown to a “wormery” which currently holds 5 million of the invertebrates. The worms can process 10,000 pounds of food scraps per month and the byproducts – worm manure and “worm tea” – are used as a rich fertilizer on several acres of gardens at the facility.
Wisconsin: In a Grant County courtroom on January 20, 2014, former parole officer Sherry Buswell pleaded no contest to 21 felonies related to stealing money from parolees and depositing it into her personal bank account. She faced more than 70 years in prison, but was sentenced in March 2014 to 18 months and over $8,000 in restitution. Buswell was also required to write a letter of apology to each of her victims. The thefts were discovered after a co-worker reviewed several of her cases and became suspicious due to “numerous inconsistencies.”
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