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News in Brief

Alabama: Former Draper Correctional Facility guard Johntarance Henriquis McCray was sentenced on July 27, 2017 to 54 months in federal prison for bringing crack cocaine, powder cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, Xanax and Suboxone into the facility. A search of his vehicle had also uncovered a duffle bag containing additional drugs, a loaded 9mm handgun and more than $400 in cash. “Corrupt guards who sneak drugs into prison are not only putting the safety of inmates at risk, they are also jeopardizing the safety of their fellow officers,” Acting U.S Attorney Clark Morris said in a statement. McCray had worked at the prison for only nine months.

Arizona: Mathew Granado, a Pima County jail guard, was fired in May 2017 and arrested following his alleged assault on a prisoner. A review of surveillance video found that Granado entered the victim’s cell; several prisoners who witnessed the incident told investigators that the guard then punched the victim repeatedly in the midsection before grabbing him by the throat. Granado appealed his termination to the Pima County Merit System Commission. That agency heard testimony for six days over a three-month period, then announced on November 15, 2017 that Granado would be reinstated to his job with the sheriff’s department and receive full back pay, though it also imposed a three-day suspension for failing to send a prisoner for medical evaluation and not filing a report about the incident. Granado’s assault charge is still pending.

California: The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office announced on August 31, 2017 that it had arrested four of its own deputies following claims that they facilitated and allowed a prisoner to throw bodily fluids, including feces and urine, onto other prisoners housed in a maximum-security unit at the Santa Rita jail. The four were Sarah Krause, 26, Justin Linn, 23, and Erik McDermott, 27, who were placed on leave, and Stephen Sarcos, 30, who resigned. Linn and McDermott were arrested on suspicion of intimidation of a witness and assault under the color of authority. Krause and Sarcos were charged with assault under the color of authority. “Though I am horrified and appalled by the actions of the deputies that were arrested today, I commend Sheriff [Gregory] Ahern for taking immediate action and arresting individuals from his own department,” stated Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods.

California: On August 23, 2017, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen dropped assault charges against former jail guard Thanh “Timmy” Tri for using unreasonable force to subdue prisoner Danny Jackson. A jury previously deadlocked 11-1 in favor of finding Tri not guilty after the 2013 incident, which left Jackson with fractured sinus bones and two facial cuts that required stitches. At the prosecution’s request, Superior Court Judge Daniel T. Nishigaya dismissed the case. Tri had been fired shortly after the altercation with Jackson.

Delaware: Nine staff members assigned to the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center were placed on administrative leave on August 10, 2017 amid allegations they had violated department policies or procedures as a prisoner was being transported from his housing unit to the infirmary. DOC spokeswoman Jayme Gravelle said officials were investigating the incident, but did not provide details as to what is alleged to have occurred. Gravell said the DOC “takes seriously any alleged incidents of misconduct and reported incidents are thoroughly investigated.” In February 2017, the Vaughn facility experienced Delaware’s deadliest prison riot in 25 years, during which Sgt. Steven Floyd was killed. [See: PLN, April 2018, p.28].

Florida: FCC Coleman prison guard Albert Larry Harris, 27, was arrested on August 22, 2017 on a charge of receipt of a bribe by a public official. Prosecutors accused him of taking thousands of dollars in bribes and helping supply drugs and other contraband to prisoners. Federal agents said the investigation started in June 2017 after three prisoners at Coleman separately reported Harris’ misconduct. According to the complaint, the prisoner-informants did not know each other; one said Harris approached him looking for a cocaine dealer, while the other two said he offered to sell them tobacco and synthetic marijuana. Harris was arrested after he sold 200 strips of Suboxone to an undercover FBI agent.

Georgia: PLN previously reported on last year’s arrest of DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey Mann on charges of indecency and obstruction for exposing his genitals in an Atlanta park. [See: PLN, Jan. 2018, p.63]. On July 28, 2017, Mann pleaded guilty and waived his right to a trial on the accusations. An Atlanta Municipal Court judge sentenced the disgraced lawman to $2,000 in fines and court costs, a 360-day suspended sentence and 80 hours of community service. He also was banned from all Atlanta city parks for six months. Prior to Mann’s criminal conviction, Governor Nathan Deal suspended him for 40 days beginning in June 2017. Although Mann returned to his role as Dekalb County’s top law enforcement officer on July 24, 2017, the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) voted unanimously on September 27, 2017 to revoke his certification as a law enforcement officer. Mann’s appeal of the POST decision is still pending.

Illinois: Cook County Judge Nicholas Ford ordered no bond for a pregnant woman who appeared before him on a non-violent probation violation, and set a new court date 60 days later – effectively condemning her to deliver her baby while in custody. Karen Padilla, 25, went into labor a month into her stay at the Cook County jail. According to an August 14, 2017 report by ABC7 Chicago, Judge Ford was accused of breaking the law and violating an order from court officials. “She was a minimum security individual, no real criminal history to speak of,” said Cara Smith, chief policy officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s Department. “I think we can never forget that real people’s lives are impacted by the decisions that the system makes,” she added. “It should be about justice and doing what’s right for someone based on the facts and circumstances of their case.” Legislation has since been passed that would require judges to hold additional hearings before pregnant defendants are jailed; the bill went to the governor for his signature in May 2018.

Indiana: Putnamville Correctional Facility guard Stephany Dawson was caught on July 28, 2017 smuggling drugs into the prison and admitted to trafficking with prisoners on multiple occasions. She also confessed that she had planned to make another drug delivery that same weekend. Searches of Dawson’s vehicle and bedroom led to the discovery of a package containing 7.4 grams of a white rocky substance, which field tested positive for methamphetamine, plus 131 grams of a green leafy substance that field tested positive for synthetic marijuana and 42.3 grams of tobacco. Dawson was charged with dealing in meth (more than five grams), a Level 3 felony, and dealing in synthetic marijuana, a Level 5 felony.

Kentucky: Kentucky State Reformatory prisoner Robert Morgan wrote in a May 2016 letter to former DOC commissioner Rodney Ballard and Governor Matt Bevin that he was “in a state prison that is being run by the inmates and the conditions in which I live are very unsafe.” Several months later, in September 2016, he met with the warden and told him he was afraid for his safety and feared prison staff would not protect him. He was right. Two days later, prisoners seeking to claim a $1,000 bounty on Morgan’s life attacked him and stabbed him 17 times, resulting in a concussion and collapsed lung. On August 7, 2017, Morgan, along with fellow prisoner Leonard Andrew, who was allegedly stomped by other prisoners in a separate assault, filed a federal lawsuit claiming they were victims of dangerous understaffing at the facility. Louisville attorneys Aaron Bentley and Michele Henry said their clients would not have been assaulted and injured if the “defendants had not been deliberately indifferent.”

Louisiana: Monroe attorney Jeffrey D. Guerriero filed a federal lawsuit on September 7, 2017 on behalf of a 17-year-old girl who was raped twice while housed at the Union Parish Detention Center in 2016. The detention center and the Union Parish Police Jury were named as defendants in the suit. According to the complaint, staff at the facility allowed convicted rapist Demarcus Shavez Peyton, who was housed at the jail awaiting sentencing, to leave his cell and repeatedly assault the girl. The lawsuit alleged another prisoner, Darandall Eugene Boyette, also was allowed into the victim’s cell with the intent to sexually assault her but “departed before committing any criminal act.” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office has not yet completed its investigation into the incidents.

Massachusetts: Alex Hernandez, 32, a former prisoner at the Old Colony Correctional Center, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to 37 months in prison on July 26, 2017. Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of threatening to kill and inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States in May 2017. The U.S. Attorney’s Office told the court that in December 2015 and February 2016, an undercover agent met with Hernandez at the prison where they discussed his plans to attack the White House and kill then-President Barack Obama. Hernandez’s federal sentence will be served concurrently with a state firearms sentence he is currently serving at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. After his release, Hernandez will be subject to community supervision for three years.

Mexico: Fighting inside the Cadereyta Prison on the outskirts of the city of Monterrey left at least 13 people dead on October 10, 2017. According to official accounts, prisoner protests became clashes that quickly intensified into a riot involving nearly 250 prisoners. “Around five in the afternoon, the decision was made by security forces to use lethal force to prevent the murder of guards as well as stop the murder of inmates,” stated Nuevo León State security spokesman Aldo Fasci. “If we had not taken this decision, we would be talking about many more deaths [now].” He further said it was not immediately clear how many people had been killed during the fighting and how many had been shot by responding police forces. Eight people were also wounded, according to Fasci’s press briefing.

Mississippi: James P. Cheatham III, 24, a former prison guard at FCI Yazoo City, was sentenced on September 5, 2017 to 15 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of providing a prohibited object to a prisoner. Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain said Cheatham accepted bribes to smuggle contraband. “Greed and corruption have no place in our criminal justice system,” stated Special Agent in Charge Robert Bourbon with the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General. “We want to thank our law enforcement partners for their continued efforts to ensure that individuals who abuse their position are vigorously investigated, prosecuted, and punished.”

Missouri: On July 22, 2017, police used pepper spray to disperse a crowd that had protested for about two hours outside the Medium Security Institution in St. Louis (known more informally as the city’s “workhouse”). State Senator Jamilah Nasheed joined the activists, who at one point climbed under an exterior chain-link fence around the jail; a few scaled a second fence closer to the building though stopped short of going over the razor wire. The medium-security jail doesn’t have air conditioning, but the heat was only one of the complaints made by protestors and prisoners alike. A litany of accusations involving the facility has accumulated since 2009. Allegations of unsanitary conditions and abuse from guards continue to circulate about the jail, which houses 769 detainees awaiting trial.

New Hampshire: Latoya Sebree, 37, a former guard at FCI Berlin, pleaded guilty in September 2017 to providing cell phones, tobacco, marijuana and other contraband to prisoners. Sebree was sentenced on January 18, 2018 to 15 months in prison. She will also serve one year of supervised release. “The public deserves honest service from its civil servants,” said Acting U.S. Attorney John J. Farley. “This officer betrayed the public trust and undermined the safety and integrity of a federal prison facility by taking bribes to smuggle contraband into a prison. This type of conduct cannot be tolerated. Those who attempt to profit from their public positions will be prosecuted aggressively.”

New Mexico: Manual Romero, a guard at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility, was caught on surveillance video passing something to a prisoner in a cell. When interviewed, Romero admitted to being paid to smuggle narcotics. On September 6, 2017, he was charged with a fourth-degree felony count of bringing contraband into a prison. The investigation into Romero’s misconduct was initiated after the prisoner in the video was later discovered suffering from a drug overdose. “We have zero tolerance for anyone smuggling drugs or other contraband into our facilities and we will ensure this individual is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said David Jablonski, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Corrections.

New York: On October 19, 2017, Arius Hopkins, a 22-year-old domestic violence suspect, slipped his handcuffs and escaped police custody, remaining at large for four days before he was re-apprehended. While on the lam, Hopkins took to Facebook to complain about what he felt was unjust police attention. “Yes I Ran!!” he posted. “Why Not You would Of To [sic] If The Cops Pull You Over Without Probable Cause??” Police were tipped off to Hopkins’ location on October 23, 2017, and he briefly held officers at bay until his mother negotiated his surrender.

North Carolina: Iredell County Detention Center prisoner Desaraye Chantal Bentley, 26, was charged with a second-degree forcible sex offense on July 27, 2017 after allegedly sexually assaulting another female detainee. There was no video of the incident, and jail supervisor Major Bert Connolly said the women were no longer being housed in the same area. Bentley’s bond was increased by $20,000 following the new charge. She was initially being held as a pre-trial detainee on drug paraphernalia possession charges. “We don’t tolerate this type of behavior in the jail,” Connolly said. “It won’t be tolerated and they will be charged if they do it.”

Ohio: Following an internal investigation into an incident involving excessive force against a prisoner, Trumbull County jail guards Matthew Abbott and Christopher Zadroski were fired on September 20, 2017 and six other jail employees – Sgts. Ariana McBride and Anita Babcock, guards William Dreier, Jordan Clay and Joseph Lynn, and sheriff’s deputy Anthony Diehl – received suspensions ranging from two to ten days. The disciplinary actions were triggered when prisoner Solomon Cindea, 33, alleged that he was attacked by Abbott and Zadroski while being moved to the jail’s booking area, and that the other staff members failed to intervene. Abbott and Zadroski are appealing their terminations, according to Trumbull County Jail Major Daniel Mason.

Oklahoma: Inmate Services Corporation was blamed for the August 22, 2017 escape of Andrew Foy and Darren Walp from one of the private transport company’s extradition vans. The incident occurred when the pair overpowered a guard while his partner slept; they then stole both the guards’ money, commandeered the van and drove away. As previously reported in PLN, both prisoners were recaptured separately in September 2017. [See: PLN, May 2018, p.63]. Over the past seven years, Inmate Services Corporation has been sued at least 15 times in federal court over unsafe or abusive conditions. One deputy sheriff in the Oklahoma county where the escape occurred said the company’s transport guards displayed incompetence that was “absolutely jaw-dropping.”

Pennsylvania: A pair of licensed practical nurses who worked at SCI Mercer entered no contest pleas on August 12, 2017 to second-degree reckless endangerment charges after they were accused of removing the oxygen supply from a prisoner who was suffering from terminal cancer. As part of a plea bargain with the Mercer County District Attorney’s Office, additional charges of conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent person and conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment were dropped. Prison staff said they got the impression that Kristina E. Lutgen, 51, and Tammy D. Barrett, 44, wanted the patient, prisoner Larry Griffin, returned to a hospital due to the amount of care he needed while in the infirmary. Barrett and Lutgen told their co-workers that Lutgen had removed Griffin’s oxygen because there wasn’t a doctor’s order for him to receive oxygen. Griffin died a short time later.

Sweden: Sweden has a reputation for focusing on rehabilitation rather than punishment in its criminal justice system. “Our role is not to punish,” the nation’s director general of prisons, Nils Oberg, told The Guardian. “The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us.” But violent prisoners housed at the maximum-security Salberga jail north of Stockholm filed a complaint with Sweden’s Ombudsman for Justice in protest of what they consider a particularly harsh condition of prison life – rough toilet paper. Svenska Dagbladet, a reporter for Russian Television, said the complaint states the “standard-issue toilet paper” is ”hard, uncomfortable and single rolled [ply].” The Ombudsman’s office confirmed that an official complaint had been submitted by prisoners, but it had not yet responded.

Tennessee: On July 25, 2017, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Tom Varlan sentenced sex offender Christopher David Grippe, 29, to 280 months in federal prison – more than 23 years – to be served in addition to the eight-year state sentence he was already serving at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility. Knoxville Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Agent John Williams found Grippe had been downloading child pornography while incarcerated since at least April 2016 and redistributing the images internationally into Canada. Grippe was also accused of plotting with another sex offender to rape his own seven-year-old daughter, but was not charged for that threat. Judge Varlan said Grippe’s persistence in pursuing his interest in child porn from behind bars “indicates to the court there is a particular need in this case for deterrence,” resulting in the lengthy prison term.

Texas: Two former guards who worked at the state’s Estelle Unit near Huntsville were sentenced for allowing and encouraging prisoners to fight one another, then covering up the bloody confrontation from other prison employees. Alexandra Catrina Kennedy pleaded guilty to official oppression, a misdemeanor, and tampering with evidence, a felony. She was sentenced in July 2017 to 180 days in jail on the former charge and seven years’ probation on the latter. She also was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and fined $1,000. The second guard, Joe Lenn Harrison, Jr., also pleaded guilty to official oppression and was sentenced to 60 days in jail; a charge of tampering with evidence was dismissed.

Venezuela: An overnight raid at a detention center in Puerto Ayacucho in the Amazonas state on August 15 and 16, 2017 left 37 prisoners dead. “There was a massacre,” tweeted Liborio Guarulla, the Amazonas governor. Venezuela’s state prosecutor’s office said 14 prison officials were injured in the incident. Human rights advocates have long complained that violent gangs exercise de facto control over many of the country’s prisons. Government security forces sought to reassert control over the violent and understaffed facility but the prisoners resisted, resulting in the large number of casualties. Venezuela’s prison system, built to hold about 16,000 prisoners, is currently estimated to house around 50,000 according to the Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, which monitors prison conditions.

Virginia: A July 26, 2017 article published on detailed the reality in the United States that “some crimes matter, while some lives do not.” Despite the fact that police officers can shoot and kill an unarmed teenager without fear of repercussion, Jason Brooks found that stealing expensive property was quite a different matter. For a string of vehicle tire and rim thefts, a Loudon County jury found Brooks, 38, guilty of six counts of grand larceny, six counts of larceny with intent to sell, three counts of destruction of property and three counts of tampering with an automobile. They recommended that he receive a sentence of 132 years in prison and 63 months in jail, plus fines of $6,000. Judge Stephen E. Sincavage, who presided over the trial, was expected to finalize the sentence at a later date.

Washington: On October 2, 2017, Megan R. Castillo, 30, a former Washington State Penitentiary guard, pleaded not guilty to felony first-degree custodial sexual misconduct, though she previously admitted to investigators that she had engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with a prisoner. Castillo, who had been employed at the prison for two years, resigned soon after the investigation began. The state later dismissed the case; Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Morales said in a November 30, 2017 court filing that the charges were dropped because the state did not believe it could prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. 


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