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

News in Brief

Alabama: During a search of arrestee Jesse O’Neal Roberts in March 2017, a stolen gun was discovered after it fell out of his underwear. A jail guard wrote in a report: “I immediately considered that he defecated on himself before noticing a familiar shape in the form of a pistol in his boxers.” According to a sheriff’s spokesperson, Roberts, 23, was being booked into the Limestone County Jail on a charge of public intoxication; not surprisingly, guards reported that he had been walking “strangely” when he arrived at the facility. The weapon was an unloaded .380 Jimenez Arms. Authorities said it was unclear whether the owner wanted it back.

Arkansas: Volunteer jail chaplain Scotty Scaggs, 46, was arrested on August 14, 2017 on charges of rape and sexual indecency with a child. In May, state police informed the Marion County Sheriff’s Office that they had received a tip about alleged sexual misconduct involving Scaggs, and investigators reported that he had sexual contact with at least one underage girl. Scaggs has been suspended from his volunteer position at the Marion County jail pending the outcome of the investigation; he was released on $15,000 bond.

Australia: On February 7, 2017, a carpet python was removed by a professional snake trapper at the Woodford Correctional Centre, a maximum-security prison in Queensland. The snake had been kept as a pet by a prisoner who found it in the exercise yard at the facility. The trapper, Lewis Rohun, was called to the prison to release it back into the bushland. According to Lewis, “The officer met me out the front with it [the snake] already secured inside a pillow case.” The prisoner admitted to having the snake before guards began searching his cell. Fully grown carpet pythons measure from 6 to 13 feet.

California: According to a February 7, 2017 news report, Los Angeles County jail guard Jonathan Grijalva was charged with assault for looking the other way as three prisoners attacked a fellow prisoner named Saul Steve Lira in February 2014. The jailer was accused of deliberately ignoring the brutal assault that left Lira with a busted jaw, broken nose, double vision, concussion and bloody face. Grijalva, who was placed on unpaid leave, also allegedly refused to help Lira obtain medical care for his injuries.

California: A former prison guard pleaded guilty on April 21, 2017 to kicking a handcuffed prisoner in the head and then lying about it. Cynthia Flores, a 34-year-old guard at the Bureau of Prisons’ women’s camp in Victorville, agreed to a plea bargain in federal court that guarantees she will not spend more than 18 months behind bars. In June 2013, Flores had “a physical altercation” with a female prisoner, according to federal prosecutors, who said another guard handcuffed the woman before Flores kicked her in the head.

California: Six guards at the California Correctional Center in Susanville suffered minor injuries after being attacked by approximately 30 prisoners on March 15, 2017. The disturbance occurred in the facility’s dining hall. During the melee, prisoners reportedly punched, kicked and threw food trays at the guards; staff used physical force, pepper spray and non-lethal projectiles to regain control. Four guards were treated for minor cuts and bruises, and one was treated for a broken thumb. One prisoner reportedly suffered a broken orbital socket.

Chile: In June 2017, over 100 former intelligence agents who worked during General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship from 1973 to 1990 were sentenced for the kidnapping and disappearances of 16 leftist militants, and received prison terms ranging from under two years to two decades. The militants had been captured by the National Intelligence Directorate, taken to detention centers and then “disappeared” – having been killed and their deaths covered up by the police. The court that sentenced the former agents also ordered the Chilean government to pay five billion pesos (approximately $7.5 million) in restitution to the militants’ families. It is estimated that almost 2,300 people were killed by security forces during Pinochet’s reign. The former dictator died in December 2006 while under house arrest and facing about 300 criminal charges.

Colorado: Three Muslim prisoners at the Sterling Correctional Facility filed suit against three prison guards for allegedly pepper spraying them during a prayer meeting and later threatening one of the prisoners who filed grievances and contacted an attorney. The lawsuit was filed in federal court on April 24, 2017 on behalf of Donell Blount, Cecil Mason and Terry Phillips, who are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Sterling guards Ethan Kellogg, David Scherbarth and an officer identified as Quinlan. The three prisoners claimed that on April 15, 2016 they arrived at a room where they were scheduled to hold a prayer service but were rebuked by the guards, who were using the room at the time. When the prisoners later returned for their service, they claimed they were immediately pepper sprayed; as they gasped for air, the guards allegedly laughed at them. Scherbarth is also accused of telling Blount to drop his grievances and not to file a lawsuit; he threatened that “life would be hard” if Blount didn’t comply.

Florida: On February 16, 2017, South County jail guard Tanquisia McGill, 21, was arrested for having sex with a prisoner, which resulted in her giving birth to his child. The illicit relationship reportedly dated back to December 2015; McGill would let Johnathan Lott out of his cell during mealtimes and lead him to a control room where they had sex. All the controls for the cells as well as weapons were in the control room. McGill listed Lott as the father of her child on the birth certificate. She has been charged with sexual misconduct between detention facility employees and prisoners, interference with county prisoners and culpable negligence.

Florida: A nurse at the Polk County jail, employed by private contractor Corizon Health, was arrested on June 16, 2017 for smuggling contraband to a prisoner – including coffee and cigarettes – and having sex with him. Andrea Sarvey, 32, reportedly had an intimate relationship with prisoner Aubry Pettus, and love letters were found in her vehicle. Pettus was charged with conspiracy to introduce contraband into the jail.

 Georgia: Georgia Department of Corrections contract nurse Jodi Suzanne Rigby, 35, was arrested on March 9, 2017 for having sex with a prisoner at the Central State Prison in Macon. On the morning of her arrest, Rigby was served with seven felony warrants at her home and led away in handcuffs. She was charged with sexual assault by a person with supervisory or disciplinary authority and six counts of trading with prisoners. Rigby, who had previously resigned, allegedly had multiple sexual encounters with a convicted rapist at the facility from August 1, 2015 to September 30, 2015.

Illinois: On February 23, 2017, the Menard Correctional Center was placed on lockdown after approximately 150 prisoners refused to leave the yard for several hours. A prison official said all the prisoners had been accounted for, and the incident was under investigation. Menard was locked down again in April 2017 when six guards were injured in an attack that involved multiple prisoners. “The offenders [involved] have been transferred to other correctional facilities,” Illinois DOC spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said in a statement. “Upon completion of the investigation, the Department will refer the case to the state’s attorney for possible prosecution.”

Illinois: Derek A. Luckey had already been sentenced to prison for the attempted abduction of a child and was awaiting transfer at the Coles County jail when he sexually assaulted a fellow prisoner. Luckey, 37, pleaded guilty to the additional charges and on May 2, 2017 received two concurrent five-year prison terms for aggravated battery and criminal sexual abuse. Circuit Court Judge Brien J. O’Brien also ordered him to pay more than $1,000 in fines and court fees. The maximum prison terms for the offenses were above the usual sentencing range due to Luckey’s prior convictions.

Indiana: Army sergeant Heather Sinnett, 27, assigned to Camp Atterbury, was charged in June 2017 with having an illicit relationship with prisoner Bradley Gulledge at the Edinburgh Correctional Facility. Sinnett is accused of engaging in sex with Gulledge and becoming pregnant with his child; Gulledge told investigators they were intimate in a mop closet. Sinnett faces a Level 5 felony count of sexual misconduct with an inmate.

Indiana: Jessie A. Culbertson, a food service worker at the Miami Correctional Facility, was arrested on February 5, 2017 as he tried to deliver meth and synthetic marijuana to a prisoner as part of a drug deal. Culbertson was in possession of more than three ounces of synthetic marijuana, one ounce of meth and 90 Suboxone strips. He told investigators that he planned to deliver the drugs to a prisoner in exchange for $250; additional drugs were found in his vehicle in the prison’s parking lot. Culbertson was booked into the Miami County jail and held on $50,000 bond.

Jordan: On March 4, 2017, Jordanian officials hanged 15 prisoners at dawn. The mass execution was reportedly one of the largest since the country reinstated the death penalty about two years ago. Ten of the condemned prisoners were convicted of terrorism while the other five had committed serious crimes, including incest and rape. “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking,” said Samah Hadid, Deputy Director for Amnesty International’s Beirut office. “There is no evidence that the death penalty addresses violent crime, including terrorism-related offenses.” Jordan’s government warned that it has a zero-tolerance policy concerning terrorism or even the perception of sympathy for terrorist organizations.

Louisiana: A prisoner transport van crashed on U.S. 61 in East Baton Rouge Parish on March 27, 2017; the Department of Public Safety and Corrections reported that four guards and two female prisoners suffered minor injuries. The van was returning to the Jetson Center for Youth from a doctor’s appointment when the accident occurred. The Jetson Center had been temporarily housing offenders from the Louisiana Correctional Center for Women, the state’s only women’s prison, which had been closed due to flooding.

Louisiana: Eric Lands, a guard at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, was arrested in February 2017 on a charge of simple battery; he was caught on surveillance video repeatedly punching a prisoner while escorting him back to his cell. Witnesses told investigators that Lands attacked the victim after he spit in the guard’s face. At the time of the incident, Lands was still in the probationary phase of his employment at the facility. The incident occurred about a month after the FBI launched an investigation into the beating of a 34-year-old prisoner by a group of six guards at the same facility.

Mississippi: Cynthia D. Smith, 37, a guard at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility, was arrested in May 2017 on drug-related charges. She was charged after law enforcement officers searched her home and found 12 ounces of black tar heroin as well as marijuana and a large amount of cash, according to John Dowdy, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. The Tallahatchie facility is a private prison run by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America. Smith was jailed with a bond of $150,000.

Mississippi: A former Wayne County justice court judge who was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl died in prison on April 13, 2017, according to the state’s Department of Corrections. Billy T. Bonner, 78, died at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman. An autopsy was scheduled to determine his cause of death. Bonner was serving a five-year sentence after he pleaded guilty in 2012 to raping a girl who was cleaning his house.

Missouri: Sean C. Bradley, incarcerated at the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City, was admonished by federal judge Dean Whipple for one of his pleadings in a lawsuit challenging unsanitary conditions at the facility. Bradley had sent the judge tangible evidence to prove his claims, which, the court noted, “appears to be human feces.” Judge Whipple notified Bradley that “if he sends to this court any other material that is biohazardous or has the appearance of being biohazardous, his complaint will be dismissed without further notice.” The jail has faced other lawsuits over unsanitary conditions, including allegations that toilets back up and overflow.

New York: Prisoners at the Brooklyn House of Detention filed a federal lawsuit in February 2017, alleging that carrot cake served during the 2015 Thanksgiving Day meal had been deliberately poisoned. The tainted cake left 16 prisoners incapacitated, according to the complaint, which claims that guards and other staff members caused them “to suffer food poisoning from [the dessert] ... containing poisons or including rat poison....” Each of the plaintiffs is seeking $1 million in damages.

New York: Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said on April 24, 2017 that Rikers Island physician’s assistant Sidney Wilson, 60, had been indicted on 43 counts of rape, sexual abuse and related crimes. Wilson, who was employed by Corizon Health, a private contractor that provided medical care at Rikers, denied the charges. One of his victims, Kim Ayala, initially reported the abuse to a state DOC investigator. “When you’re incarcerated, you’re almost at a loss,” she said. “The physical attention, the fact that he’s a doctor, the fact that you can get things from the outside ... he could take advantage of women in that situation.”

New York: A state prison guard fatally shot herself outside a Queens facility on May 2, 2017 after firing several shots at her ex-boyfriend and peppering his car with bullets, according to prison officials. Video obtained by the New York Daily News showed Kisha Brown, 47, jogging down the street outside the Queensboro Correctional Facility in uniform with a gun in her hand. Brown, a 17-year guard, opened fire on her ex, Rasheem Lord, forcing him to run for cover. She left briefly, according to witnesses, then returned, reloaded and pumped bullets into Lord’s car before shooting herself in the chest. She died at Elmhurst Hospital Center, officials said. Lord was not injured.

North Carolina: “The witnesses said they saw the car door fly open and a woman fly out,” said Cheryl Golden, whose daughter, Yolanda Dillard, 37, jumped from a moving Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office patrol car. Dillard was shackled and handcuffed at the time, and sustained serious head and facial injuries that will reportedly require reconstructive surgery. “We are trying to determine the events that led to this situation,” said Chief Deputy Brad Stanley, who added he didn’t know if the vehicle’s doors were locked at the time or whether Dillard had been secured with a seatbelt. Following her release from a hospital, Dillard was jailed on misdemeanor charges.

Ohio: In February 2017, former Montgomery County jail guard Michael Rose, Jr. pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in federal court. He had been charged with providing cell phones to prisoners in connection with a heroin trafficking ring, and faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, stated, “This is very rare. Certainly, we are going to investigate and prosecute anytime that we find it, but the times that we find it, it’s very rare.” Glassman clearly isn’t a regular reader of PLN because, if he were, he’d know that contraband smuggling by corrections employees is fairly common.

Ohio: Previously deleted text messages recovered by an Ohio State Highway Patrol analyst confirmed that a Newark man did not rape a woman who claimed he had sexually assaulted her. After eight months in jail, Adam Alexander, 26, was released on April 17, 2017. He was facing three counts that included rape, gross sexual imposition and aggravated robbery. “He hasn’t hugged his son” in almost a year, said his attorney, Diane Menashe. “No visitation. Lost his job.” According to Menashe, the text messages supported Alexander’s claim that he and the woman had a consensual sexual relationship. Menashe also said she hoped charges would be filed against the woman. Alexander still faces an unrelated marijuana charge.

Ohio: On May 9, 2017, a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted a jail guard on charges that he dealt drugs from a corner store. Brian Salters was arrested on seven counts of drug trafficking, three counts of drug possession, possessing criminal tools and a concealed carry violation. Cleveland police said they saw Salters complete two drug transactions outside Mr. C’s Liquor Store. When they approached his car, they allegedly observed a bag of weed and noticed his Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department badge. Once they searched the vehicle, they reportedly found an unloaded gun, ammo, 28 bags of marijuana, four bags of crack, two bags of heroin, two bags of ecstasy, a bottle with 20 unidentified pills and a Pringles can that contained heroin residue. Salters, who was not accused of selling drugs inside the jail, was released on $10,000 bond.

Oregon: Former Klamath County Sheriff’s Office jail deputy Bradley Marc Davis pleaded guilty on April 5, 2017 to having sex with a female prisoner. In March, investigators with the Oregon State Police learned that he may have engaged in a prohibited relationship with a woman in custody. The prisoner admitted to the relationship and Davis was placed on administrative leave. Following an investigation, he was charged with custodial sexual misconduct in the second degree and official misconduct in the first degree. Davis resigned from the Sheriff’s Office the same day he pleaded guilty.

Oklahoma: On May 9, 2017, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced that an unidentified supervisor had been suspended due to “unacceptable” comments by prison guards on three separate YouTube videos secretly recorded inside the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center. On one video, a guard is heard telling his coworkers to “let them die,” in reference to child molesters. Other officers can be heard talking about their belief that prisoners fake medical needs. One guard tells the others to pinch prisoners who are suspected of faking a seizure, and they will snap right out of it. The comments on the videos prompted an internal investigation. DOC director Joe Allbaugh issued a statement, saying: “I want to be very clear, this type of behavior and expression of opinion is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The videos were reportedly uploaded under the name of James Larrick, and the DOC confirmed that a guard with that name at the Lexington facility had resigned in December 2016.

Oklahoma: A brawl between prisoners and guards broke out at the Cimarron Correctional Facility on May 16, 2017 at approximately 9 p.m. The incident began when a prisoner refused to comply with a guard’s orders, and he responded by using pepper spray. That prompted several other prisoners to attack the guard while others rushed to their colleague’s aid. In the aftermath, five guards were transported to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. No prisoners were injured; the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ Office of Inspector General is investigating the incident. The prison is operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA.

Pennsylvania: On June 6, 2017, federal prisoner Jessie Con-ui, 40, was convicted of first-degree murder for killing prison guard Eric Williams at USP Canaan in February 2013. [See: PLN, July 2013, p.56]. The jury took only half an hour to deliberate before returning a guilty verdict. Con-ui, who used an improvised knife made from plastic, reportedly said he stabbed Williams more than 200 times over a “disrespect issue”; following the incident he was moved to the Bureau of Prisons’ supermax facility in Florence, Colorado. Con-ui’s attorney didn’t dispute his client’s guilt, but argued against the imposition of the death penalty. That argument was successful and in July 2017 Con-ui was sentenced to life in prison.

Pennsylvania: In May 2017, six guards at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility were charged with beating a one-legged prisoner. They first assaulted him in his cell, and after he received medical treatment they reportedly attacked him again in a common area. Investigators reported that the victim “did not fight back” during the latter beating, which was caught on video. Guards Edwin Negron, Darin Collins, Alfred Gregory, Jr., Anthony Saxby, Randall Sims and Jason Marshall were charged with numerous criminal offenses and fired.

Pennsylvania: On March 23, 2017, former Luzerne County Correctional Facility employee and Wilkes-Barre Area School Board President Louis Elmy was sentenced to six years in federal prison and two years of supervised release. He had pleaded guilty to charges of extortion and possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking. While working as a counselor in the facility’s work-release program, he admitted to extorting cash, booze and help obtaining crack cocaine from prisoners in exchange for giving them special privileges. U.S. District Court Judge Malachy E. Mannion admonished Elmy, saying his criminal conduct “violate[d] the very soul of trust.”

Texas: Jacob Torres, 20, was arrested by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Office of the Inspector General on February 14, 2017. Torres, who worked as a guard at the Diboll Correctional Center, faces charges of smuggling marijuana in exchange for bribes. He admitted to investigators that he had brought K2 into the facility by placing it in a sandwich bag concealed under his clothes. He was charged with felony bribery and released after posting $10,000 bond.

Texas: In April 2017,state officials announced the closure of a privately-run prison in Brownfield; the West Texas Intermediate Sanction Facility was slated to close on June 2, 2017 after its continued operation was not funded in the state budget. The prison, run by MTC, employed 60 to 70 people and paid Brownfield around $250,000 annually under its contract with the city. Over 240 prisoners housed at the facility were moved to the nearby Rudd Unit.

Texas: Jimmie Fred Lee, 36, was arrested on March 7, 2017 for smuggling cell phones, synthetic marijuana and tobacco to prisoners at the Allred Unit, where he worked as the food service manager. An investigation was launched after several cell phones were discovered in a prisoner’s locker, and data recovered from the phones indicated that Lee may have been involved with smuggling them into the facility. Upon questioning, he admitted to giving various items to prisoners in exchange for bribes. According to Lee, he did so at the direction of an unknown individual he knew only as “Callie.”

United Kingdom: On February 22, 2017, convicted British murderer Shaun Walmsley escaped from two prison guards while visiting Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool. Two accomplices armed with a gun and knife threatened the guards as they left the hospital, and Walmsley escaped in a waiting Volvo. For some reason, Walmsley, a drug dealer who was convicted of killing a rival dealer in June 2015, was taken to his hospital visit in a taxi instead of a prison van. He was serving life with a minimum of 30 years. Authorities warned the public not to approach him, as he was classified as a “Category A” prisoner, which is reserved for the most dangerous offenders. Walmsley reportedly lost over 50 pounds while locked up so he would be taken to the hospital.

Utah: Former Daggett County Sheriff Jerry Jorgensen pleaded guilty on September 6, 2017 in connection with misconduct by four of his deputies at the county jail. His plea to a charge of official misconduct will be held in abeyance for a period of six months, and may be dismissed provided he pays a fine and doesn’t commit any new offenses. Two other charges – failure of a sheriff to keep prisoners safe and obstruction of justice – were dismissed. In May 2017, Jorgensen and four of his deputies were charged after investigators determined the deputies had used Tasers to abuse prisoners. The incident resulted in the closure of the Daggett County jail after the Utah Department of Corrections removed 80 of its prisoners from the facility; Jorgensen’s guilty plea will likely end his 40-year career in law enforcement.

Washington: Four new charges have been filed against former Washington State Penitentiary guard Benjamin G. Smith, bringing the total number of criminal counts to seven. Smith is accused of child molestation and child rape. He was arrested in January 2017 for sexual intercourse with a child between 14 to 15 years old and sexual contact with another child age 12 to 13. He waived his right to a speedy trial in March to allow his attorney more time to prepare his defense, then pleaded guilty in August 2017.

Wisconsin: A Sheboygan County jailer, Katy Moon, 31, resigned in August 2017 and was charged with having inappropriate contact with a male prisoner. The incident occurred at the Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution, and Moon was turned in by another prisoner who said she offered him sexual favors “if he didn’t say anything,” according to a news report. Two partial love letters were found in Moon’s possession; another was found in a prisoner’s cell. 

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