News in Brief
Brazil: A prison guard was suspended after 13 felony offenders escaped the Rio Grande prison through a tunnel on August 17, 2014, recorded the escape on a cell phone and posted the video online. In a nation struggling with government corruption, it is alleged that the guard may have been bribed to overlook inspections of the cellblock for nearly 60 days prior to the escape.
Bolivia: On September 14, 2014, an armed clash involving gunfire erupted between foreign and Bolivian prisoners at the El Abra Penitentiary in Cochabamba, killing four prisoners and wounding eleven others. Denis Meijia, the regional head of the Cochabamba Penitentiary System, confirmed that a shootout had occurred at the facility; other reports said the fighting broke out after a power failure during a Mass ceremony. Hundreds of police officers restored order before dawn the next morning.
Colorado: An intensive investigation led to charges and a subsequent August 26, 2014 plea agreement by prisoner Ray Wolfe, who falsely reported that he had found a hair in a meal of beef stroganoff served at the Summit County jail. Wolfe was sentenced on four felony counts to 8 years in prison, combining an assault charge and several other offenses he committed while incarcerated with three felonies based on the false report of food contamination. The investigation determined that Wolfe had put the hair in his own meal.
District of Columbia: It is unclear whether the murder of a high-ranking D.C. Department of Corrections official was connected to her employment, but on September 7, 2014, DOC deputy director Carolyn Cross, 64, was found strangled with blunt-force trauma to her head. Police charged Dawit Seyoum with the slaying and suspected a possible link to another, earlier homicide. On April 23, 2015, jurors declared they were “hopelessly deadlocked” on murder charges against Seyoum, resulting in a mistrial.
Florida: Former Collier County jail prisoner Crystal Dawn Stephens, 25, admitted to authorities on August 12, 2014 that she had stolen her former cellmate’s debit card number and expiration date, contacted a bail bondsman and used the stolen card information to bail herself out of jail on a shoplifting charge. She also purchased a plane ticket for a friend, bought several items from the jail’s commissary and paid for jail phone calls. Stephens was re-arrested and charged with identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and grand theft.
Florida: On September 9, 2014, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young was accused of allowing jail prisoners, including violent offenders, out on furloughs to visit family members or have trysts with their girlfriends at motels. Sometimes the prisoners were escorted by off-duty guards who were paid by the prisoners’ families; other times the prisoners were unescorted. Sheriff Young, who is the first black sheriff in Gadsden County, denied any wrongdoing and claimed State Attorney Willie Meggs was trying to sabotage him due to his race.
Georgia: A former guard at the CCA-operated Wheeler Correctional Facility and her “inmate boyfriend” were arrested in May 2014 for running a telephone scam that targeted residents of New Jersey. The victims were tricked into sending money to prepaid accounts as “fines” to avoid arrest on fictitious criminal charges. Former guard Clarinda K. Carter and prisoner Covian Jamarrith Camp both face two counts of extortion and two counts of impersonating a law enforcement officer.
Guatemala: Prosecutors said in September 2014 that former Guatemalan army captain Byron Lima Oliva had been charged with money laundering and organized crime for extorting money from fellow prisoners while serving a 20-year sentence for the murder of a Roman Catholic bishop. Lima Oliva is accused of building a multimillion- dollar prison empire by charging for special favors such as cell phones, special food and conjugal visits. He denied the allegations, saying he was the target of a vendetta by the Guatemalan government.
Haiti: On September 10, 2014, the Associated Press reported that only 75 of 329 escapees from the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison had been recaptured. The jailbreak, which took place on August 10, 2014, left citizens worried and frustrated. The incident occurred after gunmen pulled up to the prison in an SUV and opened fire; the prisoners who escaped ran through the streets, looting street vendors along the way. While crime has long been a problem in Haiti, the mass breakout exposed serious deficiencies in the nation’s justice system.
Idaho: A jail escapee with social media skills taunted authorities during a Facebook interview with a reporter from KTVB on September 10, 2014. Nicholas Grove chatted with the reporter about his escape and bragged that “Within four days I had a new life, new ID, new face, new job.” Grove also told the reporter that the police should not waste their energy trying to track him down. “They’ll wait for me to pop up on the grid, but like I said Nick Grove doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. Grove’s escape was more low-tech – he climbed over a fence at the Payette County Jail, where he was being held on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, possession of burglary tools and an invalid license.
Illinois: On August 10, 2014, the Herald Review reported that Governor Pat Quinn had undertaken a curious approach to overcrowding in the state’s prison system by closing two facilities. With the closure of the Dwight and Tamms prisons, Quinn predicted savings of tens of millions of dollars in state budget funds. Although the Tamms facility remains vacant, the Dwight compound has taken on a new purpose – it now holds 2,200 filing cabinets that contain the records of around 250,000 public assistance beneficiaries.
India: An incarcerated female activist who had been tube-fed through her nose for nearly 14 years in response to her hunger strike in protest of human rights abuses in northeast India was released from a jail hospital on August 20, 2014, but re-arrested a day later on a charge of attempted suicide. Irom Sharmila, 42, known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur,” vowed to continue her hunger strike until her demand for the abolition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is met. “Unless and until my demand is fulfilled I will not touch anything else through my mouth,” she said.
Indiana: La Porte County jail guard Heather Lari was arrested on August 13, 2014 for smuggling contraband into the facility. She was charged with one felony and two misdemeanor counts of trafficking with an inmate, but pleaded guilty on September 19, 2014 to the felony count and the other charges were dropped. Lari’s plea agreement resulted in a suspended sentence of two-and-a-half years; she is also eligible to have her charge reduced to a class A misdemeanor upon successful completion of her sentence.
Indiana: A former jail guard with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office was sentenced on July 25, 2014 to one year of home detention and one year of probation, to be served concurrently, for his role in an assault on a prisoner. David Carrico was fired after being accused of kicking, punching and slamming prisoner Harry Hooks to the floor. A statement released by the Sheriff’s Office at the time of the incident said, “It appeared in the video that at no time did Hooks resist or fight.”
Indonesia: The Jakarta Globe reported on August 5, 2014 that disgraced former chief justice Akil Mochtar, serving a life sentence for taking bribes, was involved in an argument with another prisoner, Rahmat Yasin. Mochtar was reportedly upset at visiting arrangements for his family during the Idul Fitri holiday. According to news reports, Yasin’s visitors were on an approved list and allowed to visit while Mochtar’s relatives were denied entry to the jail because they had not been pre-approved.
Iowa: On August 23, 2014, Fayette County jail prisoner Steven Harreld attacked guard Jeremy Stiefel, took his gun, shot the guard in the abdomen and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The incident occurred at the Palmer Lutheran Health Centeras Stiefel was preparing to transport Harreld from a medical appointment back to the jail. Stiefel, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was not seriously injured.
Iran: A massive fire at the Shahr-e Kord Prison on August 4, 2014 killed 11 prisoners and injured 14 others after guards locked the gates to the facility, preventing firefighters and other first responders from entering. Prisoners had set clothing and mattresses on fire during a disturbance sparked by punishment imposed by prison officials for an earlier protest over poor living conditions.
Kentucky: On October 28, 2014, a grand jury indicted Michael B. Jones on manslaughter charges for his role in the bizarre death of a prisoner at the Jessamine County jail. Jones had been jailed on a DUI charge, and was released on furlough to attend a funeral in August 2014. He returned to the detention center with underwear that had been soaked in methadone and gave pieces of it to other prisoners. Corey McQueary, 33, ingested some of the drug-laced underpants and soon reported feeling sick. He did not inform jail officials of the drugs he had consumed, and died the next morning in a medical unit.
Louisiana: Danny B. Daniel, 64, a maintenance worker at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, died in a freak accident just days after his arrest on charges of malfeasance in office for alleged inappropriate conduct with a prisoner. Daniel was crushed to death on August 30, 2014 when a tree fell on the truck he was driving. A passenger in the vehicle was uninjured.
Maine: After prisoner Chase Bellefountaine posted a photo of himself on Facebook while behind bars, an investigation led to the indictment of seven York County jail guards. The investigation, which began as a search for the cell phone Bellefountaine used to post the selfie, uncovered a deeper contraband smuggling conspiracy. Jailers Conner Bogan, Jay Bodnar, Anthony Klingensmith, Richard Lane, Chris Langlais and Nathan Watson were charged with official oppression, while guard Ramon Rosales was charged with multiple drug offenses. Some of the guards, as well as two civilians and Bellefountaine, also face drug-related charges.
Maine: On August 26, 2014, former Maine Correctional Center guard Bret Butterfield was taken into custody after being accused of sexually assaulting a female prisoner. Less than two months later he was indicted on a separate, but similar, charge for the sexual assault of another female prisoner at the Southern Maine Re-entry Center. Butterfield was in trouble again in November 2014 – this time for socializing with one of his victims and violating the terms of his release on bond. In a February 2015 court appearance, Butterfield withdrew his intended guilty plea to the November incident and pleaded not guilty, saying he and the prisoner were in a relationship. The charges remain pending.
Maryland: Sgt. Kwasi Ramsey, Sgt. Jemiah Green and guard Richard Hanna, all employed at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, were indicted on September 18, 2014 on charges of attacking several prisoners. They were charged with conspiracy, multiple counts of first- and second-degree assault, and misconduct in office for retaliating against prisoners they suspected of assaulting another guard. Ramsey, Green and Hanna allegedly kicked and punched the prisoners, and used mace, handcuffs and radios in the attack. Several of their victims were indicted for the prior assault on the guard that precipitated the incident.
Massachusetts: A guard at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center was arrested along with a prisoner and the prisoner’s mother in connection with a scheme to smuggle drugs into the facility. Authorities announced on September 15, 2014 that guard Brandon Beach, prisoner Robert Page and Page’s mother, Sandra Lomastro, were facing drug and conspiracy charges. The scheme was uncovered when prison officials detected “code” talking in telephone conversations between Page and Lomastro.
Michigan: Jamie Peterson received a parting gift from Kalkaska County when he left the county jail on September 8, 2014 after serving 17 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn’t commit – he was handed a bill for $630 for his stay at the jail while awaiting an exoneration hearing. Sheriff David Israel said the billing was not meant as a jab at Peterson, whom the sheriff still believes was involved in the crime. “That’s just standard procedure,” Israel said of the bill for the jail stay. “I don’t usually see money from any of them, but we still give them the bill.”
Minnesota: Tanka James Tetzlaff, 39, and Tony Terrell Robinson, 30, both incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault, were charged in federal court on August 24, 2014 for a tax scheme that netted the pair and their accomplices over $400,000 in fraudulent refunds. Tetzlaff and Robinson used the names and Social Security numbers of fellow prisoners to file tax returns, then granted power of attorney to women outside the prison to cash the refund checks. Robinson was sentenced in January 2015 to an additional seven years; Tetzlaff pleaded guilty to the charges but has not yet been sentenced. A third prisoner and three co-conspirators also were charged in connection with the scheme.
Missouri: On August 25, 2014, Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke announced that a jail guard had been suspended after a prisoner’s family members accused the guard of spraying a Domino’s pizza with pepper spray, then offering it to prisoners at the jail. Several prisoners suffered mouth and stomach “discomfort,” the sheriff said. The guard, who was not identified, resigned prior to a disciplinary hearing.
Missouri: St. Louis County Assistant Prosecutor John Quarenghi resigned after inappropriate text messages exchanged between him and paralegal Jillian Nichols came to light. Nichols was sentenced on September 18, 2014 to 15 months in prison for insinuating that her personal relationship with Quarenghi could be purchased as a special deal for a criminal defendant. The assistant prosecutor was not suspected in the bribery scheme, but resigned after his “sexting” with Nichols was revealed.
New Mexico: Torrance County Sheriff Heath White received a call from a Colorado state trooper on August 29, 2014 informing him that one of his deputies was wanted on an outstanding warrant for a felony larceny charge. Mico Fernandez, also known as Mico Malinzak-Fernandez, had worked for the Costilla County Sheriff’s Department in Colorado for two years before being hired by Torrance County. According to the criminal complaint, Fernandez had stolen police dogs valued between $2,000 and $5,000. Sheriff White arrested Fernandez within 40 minutes of the phone call.
New Mexico: A riot at the Cibola County Detention Center on August 17, 2014 caused $75,000 in damage to the facility, and jail officials said the uprising was planned. Prisoners Jordan Hurd and Jonathan Duncan were charged for their roles in instigating the disturbance. The two began by fighting in their pod; they then attacked the guards who responded, and chaos followed. An estimated 60 prisoners in two adjacent pods began destroying everything they could, from sinks and toilets to bunks and windows. Tear gas was deployed to quell the riot and no one was seriously injured.
New York: Jail guard Charles P. Hunt, Jr. was fired and arrested after he admitted to smuggling a cell phone and more than an ounce of marijuana into the Erie County Holding Center. The Erie County District Attorney’s Office announced on September 9, 2014 that Hunt had pleaded guilty to a charge of promoting prison contraband. Another guard, Eric Stevens, was fired at the same time as Hunt for a separate incident of contraband smuggling.
New York: Former Greene Correctional Facility guard Clifford A. Rowe was arrested on September 4, 2014 on charges of felony criminal sexual act and misdemeanor second-degree sexual abuse and official misconduct. He is accused of having sex with a prisoner several times over a six-month period. The investigation was conducted by state prison officials, the state police, the Inspector General’s office and the Greene County District Attorney’s office.
Ohio: On August 12, 2014, approximately 140 prisoners at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown staged a peaceful protest that led prison officials to place the facility on lockdown following the resolution of the demonstration against poor treatment and abysmal food. The prison is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which drew intense criticism for its failure to immediately notify local police about the uprising as required by the company’s contract. In December 2014, CCA lost its contract to house federal prisoners at the Youngstown facility.
Oregon: The Oregonian reported on August 5, 2014 that some of the 115 prisoners involved in an outbreak of fistfights at the state penitentiary will likely be billed for the cost of the damage resulting from the fights. Those costs include $4,752.92 to replace prisoner clothing and shoes, $8,071.46 for mattresses and linens, $10,913.58 for overtime hours, food and supplies used by kitchen workers, and $816 for the pepper spray used when responding to the brawls.
Oregon: PLN previously reported the guilty plea and sentencing of Washington County civilian jail worker Jill Curry on sexual misconduct charges. [See: PLN, April 2015, p.63]. On August 19, 2014, another jail employee, Brett Robinson, surrendered to authorities to face several counts of sexual misconduct for her relationship with the same prisoner who had engaged in sexual acts with Curry. In a strange twist, Robinson’s attorney petitioned the Oregon Supreme Court to allow an insanity defense against the charges due to her diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Without an insanity defense, her lawyer wrote, Robinson “will almost certainly be convicted and will likely be imprisoned.”
Puerto Rico: Officials announced on May 29, 2014 that conspiracy and bribery charges had been filed against Manuel Acevedo-Hernandez, 62, and Lutgardo Acevedo-Lopez, 39, a current Puerto Rico Superior Court Judge and businessman, respectively. They are accused of participating in a scheme in which Acevedo-Hernandez was paid to influence the outcome of Acevedo-Lopez’s criminal trial, including the dismissal of vehicular homicide charges.
Somalia: On August 31, 2014, the Associated Press reported that government officials had retaken a high-security prison that was attacked by Islamic militants in a suicide car bombing. The bombing was followed by grenade attacks and gunfire, in an apparent effort to free other militants held at the facility. Police said all of the attackers were killed; no group claimed responsibility for the attack.
South Carolina: U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles announced on August 13, 2014 that prisoner Sean Echols had been sentenced to 240 months in federal prison, to be served consecutive to his existing 15-year sentence on unrelated charges. Echols pleaded guilty to his role in a murder-for-hire plot that left South Carolina DOC captain Robert Johnson nearly dead and under ongoing medical care. Echols was charged with hiring a recently-released prisoner to shoot Johnson at his home; an investigation revealed the hit was placed after Johnson cracked down on prison contraband.
South Carolina: In July 2014, former jail guard Michael Billioni filed suit against York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, among other defendants, over a prisoner’s death and an alleged cover-up. Jail officials claimed that prisoner Joshua Gross fought with guards and hit his head against a wall in October 2013. He was placed in a restraint chair without medical treatment, then went into cardiac arrest. Billioni’s lawsuit alleges that his free speech rights were violated after he spoke out about his concerns that jail policies and procedures had been violated in connection with Gross’ death.
Tennessee: The Hawkins County jail houses state prisoners to earn extra revenue. One such prisoner, Brian Allen Crable, attempted to secure a transfer from the jail to a state prison by destroying a sprinkler head in his cell and causing a flood. On August 10, 2014, Crable was served with a warrant for felony vandalism. Hawkins County Chief Deputy Tony Allen said that if Crable wanted a transfer, he was “going about it the wrong way.” The incident marked the second time in as many months that Crable had broken a sprinkler at the jail.
Tennessee: Former jail guard Charles Edwards was taken into custody on September 11, 2014 on a charge of official misconduct. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office employee provided a confession detailing his sexual contact with a prisoner. “As soon as the allegations were made against Edwards, we followed our established procedure by placing him on administrative leave with pay and began an internal investigation,” said Sheriff John Fuson. “At the conclusion of the investigation, evidence warranted immediate termination and required our findings to be presented to the grand jury, as is required by the official misconduct statute.”
Tennessee: On September 5, 2014, a grand jury returned an indictment against Mary Williams, a former account clerk at the Tennessee Prison for Women. Williams is accused of manipulating prisoners’ trust accounts to embezzle more than $200,000 over a three-year period. She was charged with official misconduct, theft over $60,000, computer fraud and forgery.
Texas: Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset announced on August 27, 2014 that his department’s policy for handling confiscated firearms would be changed following the discovery of two handguns in a prisoner work area. Prior to the policy modification, guns seized during arrests were held in a secure evidence room, then transferred to skilled prisoner welders who cut them into pieces. Records indicated the two handguns had been destroyed, but they were found on top of a paint booth in the workshop. Neither weapon was loaded.
Ukraine: On August 11, 2014, during intense fighting between government forces and rebels, an artillery shell hit a high-security prison in Donetsk. One prisoner was killed and several others were injured. Around 106 prisoners escaped in the aftermath of the explosion, but 34 returned voluntarily. City council spokesman Maxim Rovensky said 20,000 local residents were without electricity and at least ten other buildings, including private homes, had been hit by rocket fire.
Washington: An unnamed 22-year-old man was taken for mental health and drug evaluations after a bizarre incident in which he approached deputies at the Pierce County Jail and demanded to get his car back. With his request, he pointed to a jail transport vehicle. Upon being denied, he tried to enter an employee’s car then jumped into another employee’s running vehicle and drove off, dragging angry guards behind. He was quickly apprehended, but as he was being transported to a hospital he jumped out of the police cruiser and took off running. After the hospital visit the man was booked into jail on suspicion of robbery, escape from custody and assault.
Washington: A former Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor pleaded guilty on November 25, 2014 to rendering criminal assistance to a convicted felon with outstanding warrants. Marriya Wright admitted to helping Mathew Baumrucker evade police, who sought him on assault charges. On August 29, 2014, documents were unsealed which indicated 1,280 text messages had been exchanged between Wright and Baumrucker; one of the messages included a photo of Wright in a bikini. Wright’s attorney convinced the judge that her actions were a one-time bad decision, and she received 60 hours of community service and a one-year suspended sentence.
Wisconsin: As previously reported in PLN, former Racine Correctional Institution health care worker Karina Herrera was arrested for performing sex acts on a prisoner, among other charges. [See: PLN, July 2014, p.56]. On July 15, 2014, Herrera was sentenced to 18 months of probation and required to register as a sex offender. “This is not a confinement case, bottom line,” Racine County Circuit Court Judge Charles Constantine said. “Ms. Herrera knew better. She knew what her position was and she abused it.... It is a probation case.”
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