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

News in Brief

Alabama: Five state prison guards were arrested in May 2017, accused of using their positions for personal gain. The arrests followed a three-month investigation at the Staton Correctional Facility, and resulted in Ronald Dickerson, 23, Jarod McDowell, 29, Joshua Alexander, 26, Leonard Scott, 31, and Patrick Jones, 42, being charged in connection with a bribery scheme. The guards allegedly smuggled contraband into the prison, including cell phones and drugs, in return for clothing, home electronics, car accessories and even a cruise trip. Several prisoners were charged, too. “After months of investigating this case, our corruption and fraud task force uncovered the bribery scheme involving correctional officers who are sworn to protect the public, but instead chose to use their position to illegally further their self-interest,” DOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said in a statement.

Alaska: Anchorage Correctional Complex prisoner Justin Apple, 39, faces attempted murder and first-degree assault charges after attacking his cellmate, Michael Knipe, on July 3, 2017 and “repeatedly stabbing him in his eyes with a pencil and repeatedly kicking him in the head.” Knipe was taken to the Alaska Native Medical Center where he underwent surgery and was placed in critical care. Guard Lewis Jones witnessed the assault during a routine security check. He immediately called for backup, saying, “I need you guys down here, this is bad.” Prison staff struggled with Apple and eventually used pepper spray and a Taser to subdue him. Sgt. Keith Zimmerman, the DOC supervisor for the mental health unit where the incident occurred, wrote a report that described Apple’s assault on Knipe’s eyes as “jabbing [the pencil] and stirring it around, almost like he was scrambling egg without even caring.”

Arkansas: PLN previously reported that Scotty Joe Scaggs, who served as a volunteer chaplain at the Marion County Jail, was arrested on August 14, 2017 on child sex charges. He was jailed on a $15,000 bond and immediately suspended from his role as chaplain. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.63]. On August 23, 2017, in a brief court appearance, Scaggs entered not guilty pleas to felony charges of rape, first-degree sexual assault and sexual indecency with a child. According to Marion County Sheriff’s Captain and Chief Deputy William Batterton, a report taken by the Crimes Against Children Division of the Arkansas State Police included accusations that Scaggs had molested a female victim when she was seven years old and continued the abuse over the next 5½ years. The investigation identified at least two other victims – one female, one male – who claimed they were abused by Scaggs.

California: Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson resigned on June 14, 2017, hours after 13 felony charges were filed against him for his misappropriation of $66,000 in campaign funds, which he used for personal expenses. Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office agreed to drop 12 of the charges in exchange for Peterson’s resignation; the deal required the DA to plead no contest to a single count of perjury for making false statements on state campaign disclosure forms. Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Theresa Canepa accepted Peterson’s plea to the single felony and ordered him to perform 250 hours of community service and serve three years of probation. Peterson agreed not to run for public office as part of his plea bargain, and also may face state bar disciplinary action.

California: On May 21, 2017, the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJDCF) hosted a unique gathering focused on inspiration, transformation and interaction in the style of the short, powerful talks that are the hallmark of the nonprofit TED organization. The lecture series, titled TEDxDonovanCorrectional, featured the theme “Beyond the Surface” and included oratory from five RJDCF prisoners and five members of the general public. In a press release prior to the talk, Warden Daniel Paramo said “[t]he inmate population and the staff are very excited about this event. TEDxDonovanCorrectional is an occasion to showcase another side of our prison, the potential power of rehabilitation, and an opportunity for the inmates to give back to our local community.” Similar TEDx events have been held in over 10 prisons across the country, including Ironwood, San Quentin and Marion Correctional.

Florida: Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced the August 17, 2017 arrests of Norma Wynn, a former G4S Facility Administrator, Jose Sanchez, a former G4S Assistant Administrator, and Johnny Hart, another former G4S Assistant Administrator, who were charged with a combined 25 felony counts plus a single misdemeanor related to their intentional destruction or tampering with evidence, failure to report child abuse and willful neglect of juveniles under their care at the Highlands Youth Academy. Judd explained that the non-secure residential commitment program had been staffed and operated by G4S, an international private prison and security company, until April 2017, and the investigation was related to incidents that occurred while the facility was still under the firm’s management. “Our investigation shows that G4S and their staff routinely covered up, or tried to cover up, fights, uses of force, contraband problems, children ‘huffing’ gas, escapes, and even reports of staff having sex with children,” Sheriff Judd stated. “If G4S told the truth about what was happening at the facility, they would be in danger of losing their contract. So they didn’t.”

Georgia: Capt. Tommy Rutledge, a spokesman for Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services, said 25 people were injured in a June 30, 2017 crash involving seven cars and a prison transport bus. The accident occurred on I-85 South and blocked traffic for nearly an hour while crews worked to move the wrecked vehicles from the interstate to an abandoned rest stop. At the scene, paramedics evaluated, treated and medically cleared a guard and 24 prisoners on the bus. Shortly after the wreck, the prisoners were loaded onto a second transport bus. None of the drivers or passengers of the other seven vehicles was injured in the accident.

Germany: On June 29, 2017, an unexploded World War II-era bomb was unearthed at a construction site near the Justizvollzugsanstalt Regensburg prison. Nearly 100 prisoners and 1,500 local residents were evacuated from the area so the explosive could be defused. The prisoners were taken by bus to an undisclosed location while specialists carried out two controlled explosions on the 496-pound bomb’s still-intact detonator. Within days of the incident, another bomb was found at a different construction site 10 minutes from the prison. According to local newspaper Mittelbayerische, at least five undetonated bombs were discovered in the Regensburg region in 2017 alone.

Iowa: Previously, PLN reported a May 1, 2017 incident in which escapee Wesley Correa-Carmenaty shot and killed Deputy Mark Burbridge and wounded Deputy Pat Morgan at the Pottawattamie County jail before shooting a civilian, stealing a car and leading police on a high-speed chase. Correa-Carmenaty was captured after he crashed his getaway vehicle. [See: PLN, Sept. 2017, p.63]. On August 16, 2017, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced by Fourth District Court Judge James Heckerman to a term of life without parole plus 50 years, which will begin after he has completed a 49-year sentence for the unrelated March 7, 2016 death of Anthony Walker. Heckerman said the reasoning for the structure of the sentence was to guarantee Correa-Carmenaty would spend the rest of his life in prison. “Evidenced by his actions, he is an extreme threat to society with no chance of rehabilitation,” the judge stated.

Kentucky: An investigation by the Kentucky Department of Corrections revealed that 16 prisoners were involved in an attack on eight prison workers at the Kentucky State Penitentiary on June 29, 2017. DOC spokeswoman Lisa Lamb told the news media that the employees were all security staff and included guards, sergeants, lieutenants and a captain. They were treated for non-life threatening injuries, but no prisoners required medical care. The facility was placed on lockdown and visits were suspended following the attack. On February 21, 2018, Kentucky State Police responded to another incident at the maximum-security prison in Eddyville, in which two guards were injured during an altercation with a group of prisoners.

Louisiana: A civilian employee of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office was arrested on May 25, 2017 after being caught trying to smuggle drugs into the Orleans Justice Center. Ciboney Parker, 23, faces charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin, possession of schedule IV drugs (tramadol) and bringing contraband into a correctional facility. Investigators intercepted calls on the jail’s phone system between Parker, prisoner Elton Williams and Williams’ girlfriend, Brittany Theophile, that detailed how and when Parker was to make the delivery. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Philip Stelly said Williams and Theophile will face “various contraband introduction, conspiracy, and narcotics distribution charges.”

Michigan: Ionia County prosecutor Kyle Butler said Adrian Delgado, 27, a contract food service worker employed by Trinity Services Group, was arrested after he reported to work at the Ionia Correctional Facility on May 19, 2016 with .62 grams of heroin taped to his leg. Delgado pleaded guilty to drug and smuggling charges on August 11, 2017; he has not yet been sentenced. There have been numerous such incidents since 2013, when the state switched to private contractors for food service. Officials said problems declined, but persisted, after Florida-based Trinity replaced Aramark in September 2015. Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz said Trinity has had 161 of its Michigan prison employees “stop ordered” – banned from prisons for various violations – since the company took over the food services contract. [See: PLN, Jan. 2018, p.46; Feb. 2017, p.48; Dec. 2015, p.1].

Nevada: Facial recognition software alerted the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles’ Compliance Enforcement Division to the true identity of 64-year-old Robert Frederick Nelson, who escaped from the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota 25 years ago. DMV investigators said Nelson was trying to apply for a new Nevada driver’s license when the software indicated he had previously held a license under the name of Craig James Pautler. Investigators found Nelson had a string of felony convictions under both names, and he was arrested on June 20, 2017 in Las Vegas. He was accused of fraud and failing to register as a felon, the DMV said, though the Nevada charges were dropped to expedite his extradition to Minnesota. U.S. Marshals took Nelson into custody on July 3, 2017. He will serve his remaining federal prison sentence as well as additional time for his 1992 escape.

New York: On August 17, 2017, after a weeklong trial, a Manhattan jury handed down a mixed verdict against Rikers Island jail guard Rodiny Calypso, returning an acquittal on charges that he violated prisoner Adnan Masoud’s constitutional rights and obstructed justice, but entering a guilty verdict on a single count of filing a false report. Calypso was fired immediately upon the announcement of his conviction. He was caught on video beating the handcuffed Masoud in a shower stall, and he reportedly waited a full day to complete a “use of force” report as required by New York City Department of Correction policies. Prosecutors showed that Calypso had attempted to justify his conduct by falsifying the incident report. Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement, “Prisoners at Rikers Island have the same constitutional rights we all enjoy, and corrections officers do not have the right to abuse inmates in their custody and care.” Kim announced on November 30, 2017 that Calypso had been sentenced to 16 months in federal prison.

New York: The only prisoner to escape from Attica Correctional Facility, former hitman Joseph “Mad Dog” Sullivan, died on June 9, 2017 at the Fishkill Correctional Facility. He was 78. Sullivan was serving a 20- to 30-year sentence at Attica for a 1965 murder when he managed to escape in April 1971. He was captured a few weeks later. No one ever officially confirmed how Sullivan was able to abscond – some claimed he scaled a wall while others said he hid inside a sack in a truck. Following his parole in 1975, Sullivan worked as a hired gun for the Genovese crime family and was believed to have killed between 20 and 30 people during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was ultimately arrested, convicted and sentenced to 87 years to life for the murder of John Fiorino, a union official who allegedly had ties to the mob.

North Carolina: Jose Humberto Lara-Pineda was among several North Carolina county jail prisoners who didn’t get proper supervision in the hours before they died in 2017, state Department of Health and Human Services investigators said on August 18, 2017. The DHHS investigation found that Lara-Pineda was on a special psychiatric watch at the Wake County Jail and should have been checked four times an hour. The 18-year-old, who was housed in a booking area to await a mental health evaluation after being jailed on a murder charge, hanged himself using a string from his jumpsuit. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison fired two guards shortly after Lara-Pineda committed suicide. That was the second time the death of a prisoner at the Wake County Jail prompted a report of deficient supervision. In 2012, Ralph Madison Stockton IV overdosed at the jail. The county agreed to pay $250,000 to his estate to settle a wrongful death claim, but did not admit responsibility.

Ohio: Environmental tests have twice been conducted in hopes of finding the source of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus, the state’s prison hospital facility. On June 30, 2017, two prisoners with pre-existing health conditions were diagnosed with the disease, which is a severe type of pneumonia caused by inhaling water-borne bacteria. A second outbreak sickened two other prisoners, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction confirmed on December 5, 2017. The facility’s warden, Rhonda Richards, said they had taken a series of precautions and would continue to test the prison’s water supply and monitor prisoners for signs and symptoms of the disease. The Franklin Medical Center houses almost 600 offenders who need medical and long-term care, including pregnant prisoners.

Ohio: On February 1, 2018, a woman who was crowned the first African-American Miss Kentucky USA in 2010 pleaded no contest to one count of illegal conveyance of drugs into a state prison. Kia Hampton, 28, regularly visited prisoner Jeremy Kelly at the Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution. As she attempted to enter the facility on May 26, 2017, she was served with a search warrant after recorded phone calls indicated she might be trying to smuggle drugs to Kelly. Hampton was taken to a small room to be searched and interrogated, where she was found to be in possession of a balloon containing 2.82 grams of marijuana. She faces a maximum of 36 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine when she is sentenced on March 21, 2018.

Oklahoma: A 20-year-old guard was arrested when he reported to work at the Tulsa County jail on June 9, 2017. Acting on a tip, Kevin Clevon Mayo was searched and officials discovered that his lunch contained more than tasty food: They found 2 grams of meth, crushed hydrocodone and 4 grams of weed tucked into his burrito. A further search uncovered other contraband, including two phone chargers, lighters and rolling papers hidden inside a pack of chewing gum, as well as a cell phone concealed in Mayo’s sock. He was jailed on a $40,250 bond on three counts of possessing with the intent to distribute drugs, and one count each of carrying contraband, possessing drug paraphernalia and conspiring to commit a felony.

Oklahoma: Two guards employed at the Lawton Correctional Facility, Captain Michael O’Brien and his wife, Lt. Donna O’Brien, were arrested on June 2, 2017 and accused of smuggling contraband into the prison – including tobacco, marijuana and cell phones. They face several felony charges. The arrests followed a raid of the O’Briens’ home as part of an investigation by the DOC’s Office of the Inspector General, the Lawton Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Lawton Correctional Facility is operated by The GEO Group, a for-profit prison company.

Pennsylvania: Six prisoners and one Blair County Prison guard face criminal charges after a vicious sexual assault at the facility on March 16, 2017. The guard, Dalton R. Zeiders, 23, was charged with felony counts of criminal conspiracy and assault of a prisoner along with misdemeanor charges of official oppression, unlawful restraint and recklessly endangering another person. Investigators allege that Zeiders let prisoners Dalaun Carroll, 28; Charles Frank, 43; Zachary Moore, 24; Allen Grager, 22; Curtis “Tank” Ramsey, 31; and Maurice “Wayne” Wakefield II, 24, out of their cells and turned a blind eye while they used a shank to threaten another prisoner. Police claim that Carroll and Ramsey then stood as lookouts while Frank attempted to dig contraband tobacco out of the victim’s rectum with toothbrushes. Hollidaysburg Borough police investigators said Zeider knew of the prisoners’ plan to get the tobacco by force if the victim was uncooperative. The guard, who was initially placed on paid suspension during the investigation, was put on unpaid suspension before resigning on October 18, 2017.

Pennsylvania: Skyler R. Galgon, 33, employed at SCI-Cambridge Springs, a women’s facility, was arrested on June 8, 2017 and charged with having a loaded firearm, ammo and alcohol in his personal vehicle that was parked on prison property. According to an arrest affidavit, a .40 caliber handgun, 29 rounds of handgun ammo, eight boxes of 12-gauge shells, two boxes of .45 caliber ammo and one box of .22 caliber rounds were found in Galgon’s SUV, in addition to five cans of Yuengling beer and one can of Bud Light Grape-a-Rita. He was released on a non-monetary bond. Galgon pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct in September 2017.

South Africa: James Smalberger, the acting national commissioner of South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services, held a press conference on June 26, 2017 after photos surfaced online that appeared to show strippers dancing with prisoners at the Johannesburg Medium B Correctional Centre, commonly known as Sun City. “The pictures taken were of an event hosted in line with June Youth Month celebrations on the 21st of June [2017],” he stated. Although Smalberger said corrections officials had approved the celebration in advance, he clarified that “the form of entertainment as depicted on social media was not approved and not in line with Correctional Services policies and procedures.” The British newspaper The Telegraph reported that 13 prison workers, including both guards and top management, were suspended for their involvement in the unapproved stripper celebration.

Texas: A prisoner convicted of Medi­caid fraud attempted to swindle an additional $810,000 from the program from behind prison bars. According to an indictment unsealed on July 11, 2017, Alexis C. Norman, 46, ran a second fraudulent healthcare billing scheme while awaiting sentencing in her original case, and continued to direct it after she had been transferred to the federal Bureau of Prisons on April 8, 2016. Prosecutors said Norman and co-conspirators placed fake job ads on Craigslist to obtain the Medicaid provider numbers of licensed mental health professionals, then used those identities together with the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and Medicaid numbers of approximately 156 Medicaid clients – mostly minor children – to submit claims for services that were not performed. Norman now faces additional charges of one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, four counts of healthcare fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.

Utah: On August 21, 2017, District Judge Keith Kelly imposed a consecutive sentence of 25 years to life on prisoner Timothy Patrick Maez, 38, who was already serving multiple prison terms. Maez pleaded guilty in June 2017 to first-degree felony aggravated murder for the August 10, 2016 death of his cellmate, James Charles Corbett, at the Utah State Prison’s Olympus facility, which houses prisoners with mental health issues. At the time of his death, Corbett, 33, was just a month away from being released on parole after serving nearly a decade on charges related to attempted sexual abuse of a child. According to court testimony, Maez had a problem with the nature of Corbett’s crime and had assaulted him previously.

Virginia: Judge Robert B. Beasley, Jr., exiled from the 11th District for 14 months following complaints that he sexually harassed courtroom clerks, told crude sexual jokes and made inappropriate sexual remarks both in and outside the courtroom, was reinstated on July 5, 2017, on instructions from the office of Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons of the Virginia Supreme Court. Despite that directive, and although Beasley had apologized for his behavior, 11th District Chief Judge Mayo Gravatt restricted Beasley’s duties to presiding over temporary detention hearings for people who may require involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric treatment. Beasley’s return to the bench has left a number of 11th District courtroom clerks feeling uneasy and fearful of reprisals. At least one clerk said she had hired an attorney as a “precaution.” Judge Gravatt acknowledged that it was possible Beasley could return to his regular courtroom duties “at some future point.”

Washington: Clark County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Nelson said 44-year-old Cory Cunningham escaped from the county jail’s work center on August 17, 2017, but was quickly tracked down by a police K9 unit. Cunningham is believed to have climbed the fence at the facility, then hid from deputies by completely burying himself in sand under some bushes. Police K9 dog Apollo, who had completed his training and been sworn in barely two weeks prior to the incident, helped his handler track Cunningham for about 45 minutes before discovering the fugitive in an area near the Port of Vancouver, only 100 yards from where he was last seen. After he was captured, Cunningham was taken to a hospital for medical attention then returned to the jail to face additional escape charges.  


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