News in Brief
Alaska: On January 17, 2018, a 43-man riot flared and quickly dissipated on the yard of the maximum-security Spring Creek Correctional Center, leaving five prisoners with injuries and resulting in a facility-wide lockdown. Alaska Department of Corrections spokeswoman Megan Edge said guards deployed pepper spray when the prisoners became “combative toward each other.” The fight lasted less than three minutes and was investigated as being gang-related, she added. “DOC will not be releasing the investigation’s results, however more information about this investigation will come out through the [district attorney’s] office as people are charged with crimes related to this riot,” Edge said.
Arizona: Attorneys Don Cartier and Mark Willimann filed a lawsuit against Governor Doug Ducey, Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan and prison warden Kevin Curran on January 16, 2018 on behalf of the families of 19 first- and third-grade schoolchildren who were injured in February 2017 when CS gas, also known as tear gas, drifted away from a training exercise at the ASPC-Florence prison complex while the children played outside at the nearby Florence Elementary School. One child “experienced side effects so severe, that paramedics provided heightened monitoring in order to prevent heart failure,” according to the complaint. “Ultimately, prison officials’ admitted failure to check weather conditions prior to the tear gas grenade explosion played a significant role in the harm the children experienced.”
Arkansas: On November 24, 2017, two prisoners at the Arkansas Department of Correction’s maximum-security Tucker Unit freed themselves from their cells and took two guards hostage for several hours. ADOC spokesman Solomon Graves issued a written statement, saying the guards were handcuffed by the prisoners and sustained minor lacerations during the incident. The guards were released following a planned use of force intervention by the prison system’s Emergency Response Team, and transported to an area hospital for medical evaluation. The two prisoners, who were not identified, received non-life-threatening injuries from the “discharge of less than lethal, and lethal, munitions.” Graves said both the Arkansas State Police and ADOC would investigate the incident.
Arkansas: Former Pulaski County Jail classification sergeant Scott Hazel was sentenced on January 5, 2018 to three years’ probation and a $2,000 fine after admitting that he lied to FBI agents who were investigating his alleged sexual abuse of a female prisoner. Hazel’s guilty plea to making a false statement resulted in the dismissal of his initial indictment for a sex offense. He had previously entered into a confidential agreement with his victim, Jessica Linda Suarez, in August 2017 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed on Suarez’s behalf by Little Rock attorneys Kathryn Hudson and Justin S. Huett. See: Suarez v. Pulaski County, Arkansas, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Ark.), Case No. 4:16-cv-00080.
Brazil: A riot erupted on New Year’s Day 2018 at the rural Aparecida de Goiania jail compound that resulted in the deaths of nine prisoners and the escape of more than 100 others. Additionally, according to police, at least 14 prisoners were injured. Lieutenant-Colonel Hrillner Braga Ananias said the uprising was gang-related. “It was a clash between prisoners and it is all under control now,” he said. Jorimar Bastos, head of Aspego, a local prison guards’ union, told reporters that only five guards were supervising around 900 prisoners when the violence broke out. PLN has reported previously on violence in Brazilian prisons, which is all too common. [See, e.g.: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.63; Feb. 2015, p.46].
California: On November 22, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown pardoned 70-year-old Craig Richard Coley, who had maintained his innocence since being incarcerated in 1980 for the murders of 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht and her 4-year-old son, Donald Wicht. Using advanced DNA testing techniques not available at the time of Coley’s trial, investigators conclusively excluded him as the perpetrator of the crime. Governor Brown ordered Coley’s immediate release, writing, “The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary.” Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said in a news conference, “As district attorney, I must tell you I look forward to the day when I can shake Mr. Coley’s hand, apologize to him for the injustice he suffered.”
Canada: Two prison guards were criminally charged on January 3, 2018, three years after repeatedly pepper-spraying mentally ill prisoner Matthew Hines at very close range, causing medical complications that rapidly led to Hines’ death. Alvida Ross, 48, and Mathieu Bourgoin, 31, each face one count of manslaughter and one count of criminal negligence causing death. Although the altercation was captured on video, family members were originally told Hines, 33, died due to a seizure. Ivan Zinger, Canada’s correctional investigator, acknowledged in a May 2017 report that Correctional Service Canada provided the public and Hines’ family with misleading and incomplete information about the May 26, 2015 incident at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. “Our parents waited far too long to be told the truth of how Matthew died, and now we feel it is fundamentally important to all Canadians that justice be done, and be seen to be done,” Hines’ family stated.
Florida: On January 9, 2018, a prisoner assigned to a trash pickup crew found a loaded handgun about 100 yards from County Road 185 in Walton County, and immediately gave the weapon to a guard supervisor without alerting other prisoners. “This could have gone tragically wrong, but the inmate did what was right,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson. Devin Dillard, 53, wrapped the Jimenez Arms .380 automatic pistol in a paper towel to conceal it from other work crew prisoners. “It was a loaded handgun,” noted jail Major Donnie Clark. “It was rusted and looked like it had been there awhile.” After some difficulty, a responding deputy was able to rack the slide to reveal a round in the chamber. The jail was notified and the gun taken into evidence.
Florida: A Brevard County Jail Complex guard was arrested on multiple charges on November 24, 2017 after it was discovered she had made several small purchases using a debit card that belonged to a recently-released prisoner. According to Sheriff Wayne Ivey, Felicia Brown, 29, noticed that another officer had mistakenly failed to return the prisoner’s funds and exploited the error. “Anything that she had to do with, obviously our economic crimes team will be looking at,” Ivey said. “Our auditing team will look at the other exchanges but the entire process as well.” Brown’s charges include petit theft, scheme to defraud, fraudulent use of a credit card, criminal use of personal information, official misconduct and false entries in books of a business.
Georgia: On February 13, 2018, a former DeKalb County jail sergeant was sentenced for Tasing a female prisoner without justification; just days earlier, on February 6, his former supervisor was sentenced for making false statements to the FBI concerning the incident. Dwight Hamilton admitted that he Tased the prisoner until she defecated on herself after she questioned the cancellation of a planned family visit. The prisoner, who was not named, suffered permanent scarring to her breast from the Taser burns. Hamilton will serve a year in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. His former supervisor, Leonard Dreyer, was sentenced to a year of probation after serving 21 days in a halfway house. “Abuse of power by any law enforcement officer is always unacceptable,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.
Georgia: Fulton County authorities announced on March 6, 2018 that they would pay a $2,000 reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of convicted rapist Charles Barry Pinckney. The former DeKalb County jail guard disappeared almost a month before he was sentenced in absentia on November 21, 2017 to 45 years in prison for raping a 15-year-old girl in his home the year before. Pinckney is said to have ties to Atlanta and Brunswick, Georgia, as well as Miami, according to a release from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. U.S. Marshals have joined the search for Pinckney
Illinois: Attorneys plan a fight to clear the name of a man who was released from prison after the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission found “sufficient evidence” to support his claim that as a juvenile, he was tortured by Chicago police who sliced his shoes with a paper cutter and threatened to cut his toes during an interrogation that ultimately incriminated him and resulted in a life sentence for double murder. Jamie Hauad was 17 when he was convicted of the 1997 gang-related slayings of Jason Goral and Jose Morales. Although Hauad always claimed he was innocent of the crimes, prosecutors declined to acknowledge his innocence and, instead, agreed to his January 19, 2018 release from prison based on the 21 years he had served.
Indiana: Indiana State Prison guard James Caffey, 27, was arrested on December 29, 2017 as he was caught attempting to bring a cell phone into the Michigan City prison. When he reported for his shift, Caffey could not clear the metal detector or the cell phone sensor machine at the prison’s initial security checkpoint. A subsequent search revealed he had a cell phone wrapped in silver tape. Caffey was charged with a Level 5 felony; if convicted, he could face one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He had been employed by the Indiana Department of Correction for just over three months at the time of the incident.
Louisiana: On December 11, 2017, former Ascension Parish Prison guard John G. Jackson, who was convicted in July 2003 of raping a female prisoner under his supervision and sentenced to a 20-year prison term at the same facility where he had worked, was granted his freedom by Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District Court. An ex-girlfriend of Jackson’s alleged victim came forward with credible new evidence that the victim had mutilated her own genitals to “set up” Jackson, and that no forcible sexual assault had occurred. Jackson’s attorneys quickly moved for a new trial; Judge Verdigets granted their motion and ordered his release. Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they intend to retry the case.
Maryland: Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams told the Associated Press that on January 17, 2018, federal Bureau of Prisons officials had conducted a cell phone signal jamming test for several hours at the FCI Cumberland facility in Allegany County. Similar tests occurred in 2010, but according to Williams this trial was significant because of advances in jamming technology. “Today is a big step, and the reason really is that, as criminals increase their capacity to commit crimes behind bars, we have to increase our capacity to stop them,” she said. Williams added that in 2016, the BOP had confiscated over 5,000 cell phones from prisoners, and preliminary data from 2017 showed even more seizures.
Minnesota: Ramsey County District Court Judge G. Tony Atwal apologized in court when he pleaded guilty on January 2, 2018 to drinking and driving early on New Year’s Day. “I’m humbled and shamed by what happened,” he said, adding that he accepted responsibility for putting people in danger with his “poor decision.” During the traffic stop, he informed the police officer he was a judge and asked to be let go. Hennepin County Judge Shereen M. Askalani sentenced Atwal to 365 days in jail with 345 days stayed for two years and a two-year probationary term. Askalani, who stepped in to handle the case to avoid a conflict of interest from other Ramsey County judges, agreed to allow Atwal to serve his 20-day sentence on home confinement with ankle bracelet monitoring. Atwal was publicly reprimanded by the Minnesota Board of Judicial Standards in May 2018.
Missouri: PLN previously reported indictments issued against the participants in an organized smuggling scheme at the Jackson County Detention Center, including prisoner Carlos Laron Hughley, who allegedly acted as ringleader of the conspiracy; guard Jalee Caprice Fuller, who was also the mother of Hughley’s child; and Janikkia Lashay Carter, a civilian who reportedly had a romantic connection with Hughley. [See: PLN, July 2018, p.62]. Fuller pleaded guilty on January 18, 2018 and was subsequently sentenced to five years’ probation. On May 23, 2018, a fourth conspirator, Marion Lorenzo Byers, also known as “Cuddy,” pleaded guilty and received 27 months in prison for his role in the scheme. Hughley received a 78-month federal prison sentence on August 8, 2018. The final co-defendant, Carter, was ordered on September 18, 2018 to serve four months on home confinement.
Montana: On January 19, 2018, former Montana State Prison guard Brett Bernard Lombardi, 36, was sentenced after pleading guilty and nolo contendere to four felony counts of transfer of illegal items to prisoners. Deer Lodge District Court Judge Ray Dayton sentenced Lombardi to four consecutive 13-month prison terms to be served as 26 months of incarceration and 26 months of supervised probation. He also ordered Lombardi to submit to a mental evaluation and pay court fees. Montana State Prison Warden Michael Fletcher testified at the sentencing hearing. “Contraband is not a victimless crime,” he said. “A corrupt staff member jeopardizes everyone that comes into the prison. It is our job to keep staff, volunteers and other inmates safe. Safety relies on staff having integrity, because it affects them, their family, fellow staff safety and morale, and the community.”
Nebraska: Johnson County District Court records indicate that on November 20, 2017, former Tecumseh State Correctional Institution corporal Sarah Murillo, 21, was sentenced to five hours of community service and two years of probation after pleading guilty to smuggling a cell phone to a prisoner who worked as a porter in the facility’s nursing unit. At the time of Murillo’s June 2017 arrest, Nebraska Department of Correctional Services Director Scott R. Frakes stated: “The introduction of contraband can lead to a variety of security breaches and will not be tolerated. Maintaining appropriate boundaries is a key component to safety and security.”
New York: A joint investigation by the New York State Police and the NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Office of Special Investigations resulted in misdemeanor criminal charges against a cook who worked at the Attica Correctional Facility. Joann Thompson, 53, was arrested on January 17, 2018; she is accused of official misconduct and second-degree sexual abuse. In addition to the issuance of an appearance ticket for Attica Town Court, Thompson’s inappropriate relationship with a prisoner resulted in her suspension without pay.
New York: On January 5, 2018, a Genesee County grand jury indictment was unsealed that charged county jail prisoner Phillip R. Chin with three felony counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. The charges stemmed from Chin’s use of the grievance system to file false accusations against Superintendent William Zipfel. District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said the grievances, which claimed Zipfel told Chin he could “make it hard for him in jail,” were dismissed first by the jail’s grievance committee, then by a state committee and, finally, by a citizens’ board. “The conversations happened in front of corrections officers so there were witnesses,” Friedman said, adding that such a charge against a prisoner was rare. He didn’t address whether the guard witnesses had simply lied about Zipfel’s alleged comments, in order to protect their boss.
Ohio: Two Cuyahoga County jail guards were fired after internal investigations confirmed they had used excessive force against prisoners in separate incidents. Corporal Amirah Abdul-Kareem was terminated on December 11, 2017 after being criminally charged with assault and civil rights violations for punching, kicking and pepper-spraying a 46-year-old female prisoner in March 2017. Guard Martice Campbell was fired on December 12, 2017. According to his termination letter, video footage showed him twice punching a seated prisoner who posed no threat, though he faced no charges for the October 27, 2017 incident.
Pennsylvania: Officials from Westmoreland County cited an ongoing class-action lawsuit against nearby Bucks County as its rationale for removing online public access to arrestees’ mug shots. On May 18, 2018, Westmoreland County Sheriff Jon Held, who also serves as the chairman of the prison board, said, “Our solicitor [Melissa Guiddy] extensively researched this, and the prison board this week opted to be cautious and take a proactive approach. We were worried about potential civil rights violations.” The suit against Bucks County, filed by plaintiff Daryoush Taha and class-certified in 2016, alleges that authorities violated Taha’s civil rights and those of tens of thousands of other arrestees by posting their mug shots when they had not yet been convicted of a crime.
Saudi Arabia: On November 28, 2017, Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was released after three weeks of house arrest at the 5-star Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh after he agreed to pay a $1 billion settlement to Saudi authorities and admit to allegations of corruption. Prince Miteb, who was once seen as a top contender to ascend to the throne of the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation, was swept up in a massive anti-corruption crackdown that resulted in the detention of more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen, some of whom were also detained at the Ritz-Carlton. Saudi officials estimated that similar settlements with those targeted in the crackdown could eventually recover around $800 billion in allegedly ill-gotten funds.
Spain: A 29-year-old prisoner who suffered from epilepsy was discovered alive in a mortuary even though three doctors had certified his death hours earlier. Gonzalo Montoya Jimenez “had autopsy markings on him, ready to be opened up” when he started snoring on the post-mortem table on January 9, 2018. The Forensic Anatomical Institute of Oviedo immediately transferred him to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a case of catalepsy – a condition characterized by rigidity of the body, a loss of pain response and a slowing down of breathing and other bodily functions. Officials were concerned that Jimenez had suffered brain damage after collapsing in his cell, but doctors said he remembered his wife after the incident and showed positive signs of recovery.
South Carolina: According to Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, he asked the Union County Sheriff’s Office to independently investigate how, on at least six occasions, jail nurse and county EMT Katherine Heckman, 38, took state trustee prisoner Sean Lyles off jail grounds to have sexual trysts, and how Lyles managed to repeatedly leave the facility and return unnoticed. Heckman was arrested on November 29, 2017 and charged with sexual contact with a prisoner and aiding an escape; Chester County officials placed her on leave without pay from both her job at the jail and her position with the county’s emergency management service. Heckman is the daughter of jail supervisor Richard Odom, but Sheriff Underwood said Odom had not been aware of his daughter’s illicit behavior and was not part of the investigation.
Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Correction spokeswoman Neysa Taylor said a loss of hot water pressure led to the malfunction of the main boiler system at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville on January 1, 2018, forcing the state to implement “emergency procedures” to protect prisoners from single-digit temperatures. Extra blankets were distributed to prisoners and portable heaters were installed, she added. The heating system was restored late the next day to at least part of the prison. According to TDOC statistics, 787 prisoners were housed at the facility at the time of the incident, including many of the state’s high-risk prisoners and Tennessee’s male death row population.
Texas: On January 10, 2018, a bus transporting over two dozen Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisoners caught fire while travelling on Highway 36 near Abilene. The prisoners, who were being transferred from the Hughes Unit in Gatesville to the Robertson Unit, were all evacuated safely and loaded onto a second bus to complete the trip. A TDCJ spokesman said the cause of the fire had not been determined, but was suspected to have begun in the engine compartment. Fire departments from the cities of Clyde and Eula were dispatched to extinguish a grass fire that was ignited by flames from the burning transport vehicle.
Texas: Prisoners housed in segregation at the Allred Unit in Iowa Park staged a 10-day hunger strike that began on December 25, 2017 and ended on January 4, 2018. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst said 45 prisoners began the strike to highlight their complaints about recreation time, temperatures in housing units and food portions. He did not clarify whether the strike ended because the prisoners’ demands had been met, saying only that “It ended because they accepted meals.” The Allred Unit houses 3,722 prisoners, with around 573 in solitary confinement. The administratively segregated population at Allred makes up roughly 15 percent of the TDCJ’s entire population of isolated prisoners.
Utah: Books Inside, a self-funded nonprofit that supplies books to prisoners in 35 facilities across 13 states, was featured in a January 20, 2018 report in U.S. News. According to the article, Toby Lafferty started the organization in 2010 after becoming involved as a book donor and prison library volunteer two years earlier. “I remember thinking, ‘if it helps one person, that is a life and there’s no comparison,’” he said. Books Inside mailed around 23,000 books to prisons and jails last year alone. Each month the organization sends packages of books that range in reading levels and genres. “There’s something in every box for everybody,” Lafferty remarked.
Virginia: On November 27, 2017, the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission of the Virginia Supreme Court removed 28th Judicial District juvenile and domestic relations judge Kurt J. Pomrenke from the bench after he admitted to interfering with witnesses in a federal corruption case against his wife, Stacey Pomrenke – the former chief financial officer of Bristol Virginia Utilities. Just days later, on November 30, Kurt Pomrenke was found guilty of contempt of court in connection with his wife’s case and ordered to serve two months in prison and pay a $1,000 fine. His attorney, John E. Lichtenstein, said in a statement that Pomrenke was “disappointed but respects the action of the Supreme Court of Virginia.”
Washington: Former Pierce County jail guard Jason Pardes was sentenced on January 8, 2018 to nine months in jail for forcing a female prisoner to perform oral sex on him. Prosecutors said the woman reported the incident after she was transferred to the Purdy Correctional Facility, a state prison. Court records reflect that Pardes repeatedly changed his account of what happened before admitting to having sex with the prisoner. In addition to jail time, Pardes’ guilty plea to a single charge of custodial sexual misconduct requires him to register as a sex offender and abide by a no-contact order with his victim.
Wisconsin: At a January 11, 2018 court hearing, Crystal Sosinski pleaded no contest to one felony charge of delivering illegal articles to prisoners; a second felony charge of possession with intent to deliver THC was read into the court record but dismissed. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail and a one-year term of probation. Sosinski, 34, a former food service worker at the Waupun Correctional Institution, was to be granted work release privileges during her jail term. Her DNA was confirmed to match biological markers collected from a marijuana-stuffed glove found in a cafeteria trash can.
Wisconsin: Three people have been sentenced for their roles in a contraband smuggling conspiracy at the Oshkosh Correctional Institution that was linked to the May 5, 2016 overdose death of prisoner Daniel Tanner while he was in a “dry cell” after prison staff suspected he had swallowed packages of heroin. In 2017, Judy R. Wallace and Bryant D. Williams were sentenced to 90 days in jail and one year in prison, respectively, after being convicted of delivering illegal articles to a prisoner. Winnebago County Circuit Judge John Jorgensen sentenced Frank D. Alioto, the apparent coordinator of the plan, to three years’ probation on January 8, 2018. A fourth defendant, Andrew J. Slawski, allegedly provided the drugs. His case remains pending.