News in Brief
Alabama: Joshua Wade Ray’s girlfriend was busted by undercover sheriff’s investigators while she passed methamphetamine, marijuana, tobacco, a lighter, rolling papers and two syringes to him during a March 7, 2018 court appearance. Lauren Whitney Foust, 33, taped a package containing the contraband to the Jefferson County courthouse floor. Ray, 36, asked to go to the bathroom, dropped a folder as he passed Foust and grabbed the taped package. Foust was booked into the Jefferson County Jail on $20,000 bond, charged with unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, promoting prison contraband and conspiracy to commit a controlled substance crime. She admitted to the scheme when she was stopped outside the courtroom. Ray was already incarcerated on a string of non-drug related charges. “I suppose love knows no bounds or they are just stupid. I suspect it’s more of the latter,” said Chief Deputy Randy Christian.
Arizona: A report by the Department of Corrections dated March 13, 2018 praised private prison firm CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, for maintaining public safety and acting “in accordance with agency policies” during a February 25, 2018 riot between black and Hispanic prisoners at the Red Rock Correctional Center in Eloy. Staff quickly used tear gas; the brawl lasted 90 minutes, but Eloy police reported hours later that the situation was “not contained” and “special operations teams are working to secure the prison.” Eloy police were present to maintain the perimeter and support emergency responders. Twelve prisoners and one staff member were taken to outside medical facilities for non-life-threatening injuries. It cost the Arizona DOC $6,000 to respond to the riot; CoreCivic said it will deduct the cost from its bill to the state for operating Red Rock.
Arkansas: Over 130 suspects from four states, including 17 juveniles, were swept up in a cockfighting raid near De Queen on March 17, 2018, leaving 200 roosters in the care of prisoners at the Sevier County jail until a court decides what to do with them. Arkansas made cockfighting a felony offense in 2009. Spectators, who paid to attend, face misdemeanor charges. The De Queen Police Department, South Central Drug Task Force, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Forestry Agency, U.S. Wildlife Service and Department of Homeland Security participated in the 18-month investigation. Sheriff Robert Gentry said he realized the “sport” of cockfighting had gotten out of hand when he began to receive calls from surrounding states about drug arrestees offering information about the fights in exchange for leniency.
California: On March 20, 2018, a meeting of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors was shut down by protesters carrying a man on a stretcher and calling for the resignation of Sheriff Ian Parkinson over the death of Andrew Chaylon Holland at the county jail on January 22, 2017. [See: PLN, April 2018, p.20; March 2018, p.60]. Protesters were not satisfied by a $5 million settlement in a lawsuit over Holland’s death, as it “came from the medical malpractice insurance of County Mental Health; it was not based on any wrong-doing of the Sheriff’s Office,” according to a protest statement. The protesters demanded an investigation by County District Attorney Dan Dow. Protest organizer Tarrah Graves, co-chair of SLO County Progressives, stated, “Three of the Board of Supervisors have not commented on the situation since the video footage [of Holland’s death] has been released, the video footage that proved that a lot of the statements that have been released were false.”
California: The California State Prison in Tehachapi was placed on lockdown on March 25, 2018 following a riot involving at least 60 prisoners that broke out in the prison’s A yard just after 1:30 p.m. Officials said three “warning” shots were fired, one of which hit a prisoner in the buttocks. He and five other prisoners were transported to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. It is unclear what started the disturbance.
Colorado: “This is a very big case. It jeopardizes the safety and security of the prison. It can cause fights over money and debts,” said Mark Fairbairn, spokesman for the Colorado DOC. “If we have a compromised staff member that’s a huge problem,” he added. “It erodes confidence in staff members including those who are doing a good job.” The case he was referring to was a February 27, 2018 drug deal in a McDonald’s parking lot between Colorado prison guard Mark Christian English, 31, and Lora Wilson, 64, the mother of a prisoner at the Sterling Correctional Facility. It is believed English was planning to give the drugs to Wilson’s son. They now face charges of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance and conspiracy to introduce contraband in the first degree.
Connecticut: The state Department of Correction came under public scrutiny in March 2018 when anonymous photos were sent to television station WFSB that showed prison workers, including guards, allegedly sleeping on the job at the Garner Correctional Institution. Prison officials denied that the pictures were taken on March 25, the day prisoner J’Allen Jones, 31, unexpectedly died at Garner. DOC Commissioner Scott Semple told reporters that sleeping on duty is prohibited at all Connecticut facilities. “The Department of Correction is conducting a thorough investigation into this matter. Let me reiterate that the agency does not, nor will not, tolerate egregious instances of inattentiveness to duty such as these,” he said in a statement. Also of concern is how the photos were taken. Electronic devices, including cameras and cell phones, aren’t allowed in DOC facilities.
Florida: Internal investigations are familiar to Putnam County jailer Patrick Larry Dean, 56. The most recent was prompted by his arrest after he arrived at an arranged meeting at a convenience store on March 21, 2018, ready to pay $75 for sex. “He had been conversing by text message and online on Facebook with our undercover detectives,” said Sheriff Gator DeLoach. “I don’t think this will come as a surprise to a lot of our employees.” An unrelated investigation had suggested Dean was soliciting sex from prostitutes in exchange for prescription drugs and money. He was stripped of his badge and placed on administrative leave following his arrest.
Georgia: Jessica Swenson, 30, is accused of helping her boyfriend, Jeremiah Lockhart, 24, and another prisoner, Jonathan Browning, 27, escape from the Muscogee County jail on March 6, 2018, then dropping them off at a house in Marion County. There they got a ride with Tiarea Walker, 29. Walker was charged with two counts of hindering the apprehension of a criminal. Marion County resident Windy Taylor saw the escaped pair and then found their shoes in her driveway the next morning and called the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. A Georgia State Patrol helicopter spotted the fugitives soon after. During the search, Swenson was picked up at her workplace and charged with two counts of aiding in escape of the prisoners. It is unclear what new charges Lockhart and Browning will face. “We are continuing to investigate how the inmates were able to escape from the stockade,” said Muscogee County Major Joe McCrea.
Illinois: A private security company, Guard Force International, was hired to transport two prisoners from Oklahoma to Texas; Lamont Henderson, 49, the driver, decided to swing by the Casino Queen Hotel in East St. Louis, Illinois. He and the prisoners checked in around 10 p.m. on March 4, 2018. Henderson fell asleep and woke 40 minutes later to find Brian Jordan, 33, and $5,200 of his own money gone. The other prisoner slept through the escape. Henderson waited until the next morning to alert police, saying he was out looking for Jordan. Guard Force backed up Henderson’s claim that he was “supposed to be in the St. Louis area after dropping off another inmate in northwest Missouri,” adding that they were supposed to meet up “with another security team.” Nevertheless, Henderson was fired “for not following protocol.” Security cameras showed Jordan taking a cell phone and clothes from the transport van and walking off; he was being extradited to Texas on a methamphetamine parole violation.
Indiana: Advanced Correctional Healthcare provides medical services at the LaPorte County jail. On March 16, 2018, Gina Salinas, a Licensed Practical Nurse employed by the company, was arrested for providing a cell phone to a prisoner. She was charged with a single count of contraband trafficking – a level 5 felony. Salinas was fired by ACH and booked on a $15,000 cash only bond. LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office investigators were called in after jail officials received a tip that a prisoner had a cell phone.
Indiana: First a jailer and now the jailed, Christopher Black, 26, a civilian employee at the Grant County Jail, was arrested on March 8, 2018 after he “was observed retrieving a package containing a baggie of substance similar to a controlled substance” and passing it to a prisoner. The Sheriff had been tipped off about Black the prior month. Melina Church, 25, and Shandessa Simmons, 25, were arrested in April 2018, revealing a drug trafficking scheme. Grant County prisoners James Fetz and James Courtney were cooperating with Black to obtain the methamphetamine from Church and Simmons. Black was being held at the Miami County jail on $200,000 bond, facing charges of conspiracy to traffic with a prisoner, a Level 5 felony, and conspiracy to deal in methamphetamine over 10 grams, a Level 2 felony. The others involved in the scheme remain at the Grant County jail, each on $50,005 bond.
Indonesia: Christian Beasley, 32, an American who escaped for five days from Bali’s notorious Kerobokan prison in December 2017, was given a five-year sentence and fined $80,000 on March 5, 2018. Six months will be added if he fails to pay the fine. Beasley was arrested with 5.7 grams of hashish at a post office in Indonesia in August 2017. He cut “through the steel bars above the ceiling” at the prison, then used a ladder and rope to scale a wall in his escape. He was paraded in chains at a press conference upon his recapture. Beasley had been hiding on nearby Lombok island. The Kerobokan prison is grossly overcrowded, and in June 2017, four foreigners tunneled out. Shaun Edward Davidson of Australia is the most famous, posting taunting updates of his whereabouts on a fan page on Facebook. Another escapee, Tee Kok King, also still at large, is believed to be in his home country of Malaysia. Conditions at Kerobokan are bleak. Australian Paul Conibeer, who wrote a book about surviving the prison, called it an “evil and undermining” place.
Louisiana: A wave of arrests and resignations took place at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, related to contraband smuggling and “inappropriate behavior.” Sergeants Frederick Ross and TiChina Williams were arrested on March 19, 2018 on charges of “felony malfeasance in office.” Both resigned. Williams couldn’t deny her relationship; she had a prisoner’s name tattooed on her arm and her name was on his. Another prison worker, Tyleyiah Wrights, had 17 grams of synthetic marijuana and $1,000 in cash in her car. Most of the disgraced employees had worked at Angola less than one year and were in their 20s. Kiaria Cruse was put on administrative leave after she “became enraged, shoved chairs into walls, and shouted expletives” in advance of an investigation interview, according to Ken Pastorick, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Michigan: Last year was a bad one for Jackson County Sheriff Steven Rand. In February 2018, Lt. Tommy Schuette filed a federal lawsuit calling Rand a “multi-faceted bigot,” and released recordings of command staff meetings. The recordings showed a pattern of crude, degrading comments about women and minorities by Rand and sheriff’s commanders. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution requesting that Rand resign, effective immediately. He didn’t. They then unanimously voted to send a letter to the governor asking for Rand’s removal. Governor Rick Snyder forwarded the request to the state Attorney General’s office for review. Nothing happened. In November 2018, language to recall Sheriff Rand was approved on a fourth attempt by the state Board of Canvassers. Volunteers must now collect and submit 15,213 signatures from registered Jackson County voters to get a recall on the ballot.
Missouri: Paul H. Baroni, 57, was just 17 years old in 1978 when he stabbed a classmate who wouldn’t date him. Following his release after serving 38 years in prison, he wanted to go back after less than a month of freedom. Small things created anxiety, he said. He had a cell phone from his sister, but couldn’t figure out how to send a text. He got kicked out of the Father Dempsey’s Charities transitional housing for violating rules related to alcohol, then was turned away at a homeless shelter. Baroni was afraid of being homeless. “I panicked. I used to see homeless people downtown walking around,” he said. “It seems like they’re just lost. I can’t live like that.” So he pretended to have a gun while robbing a bar, then told an employee to call the police. Baroni was booked into the St. Louis County Jail on $250,000 cash bail in March 2018, on a charge of first-degree robbery.
Nevada: On August 8, 2018, the American Humanist Association filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Benjamin Espinosa, incarcerated at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center. Espinosa wanted to start a humanist study group. He filled out forms to get the DOC to recognize humanism as an “approved” religion, thereby qualifying for privileges extended to faith-based groups such as correspondence courses, religious holidays and donated materials. U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones wrote that Espinosa “had not alleged how his humanist beliefs differed from traditional secular moral philosophy in a way sufficient to qualify as a religion under the religion clauses.” Monica Miller, senior counsel at the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, stated, “The Nevada Department of Corrections is violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment by denying privileges to humanist inmates that are accorded to theistic inmates.” The American Humanist Association successfully settled a similar lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Prisons in 2015, which now recognizes humanism. [See: PLN, May 2016, p.34].
New Jersey: Enrique Silva, 73, eluded authorities for 23 years after escaping from the Riverfront State Prison by walking away from a work detail in May 1995. He had been serving 8-20 years for conspiring to sell almost six ounces of cocaine to a narcotics investigator. A new tip alerted the NJ DOC’s Fugitive Unit to “a potential female acquaintance” living in Orlando. U.S. Marshals in New Jersey contacted their counterparts in Florida, and a stakeout was initiated. The “acquaintance” was Silva’s wife. It is unclear whether she knew that Silva was an escapee. On March 8, 2019, fugitive hunters entered the home and a “grey-bearded man ran out the back door.” The task force reported, “This time, Enrique Silva ran into the awaiting arms of law enforcement.” Although extradited back to New Jersey, Silva won’t end up in the prison where he had escaped; Riverfront was closed and demolished in 2009.
New York: Richard and Christine Wertman operated a company, CMW Management Service, Inc., that contracted with six state prisons: Attica, Great Meadow, Wende, Green Haven, Five Points and Shawangunk. Three of the six contracts for satellite television services were never reported to DirecTV, and for at least five years the Wertmans used bootleg equipment to tap into the DirecTV satellite signal. “With stunning gall, this couple used their access to state prisons and their technical expertise to perpetrate a six-figure theft of satellite television services,” said New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott. Second-degree grand larceny charges were filed in February 2018, and the couple pleaded guilty to defrauding DirecTV. They agreed to restitution and forfeitures totaling $375,000.
North Carolina: David A. Woods, 46, was serving a minimum-custody life sentence at the Gaston Correctional Center when he jumped into a City of Lowell pick-up truck while on a work detail and took off down Interstate 85 on February 26, 2018. One hour after he was reported missing he was dead, having crashed the vehicle just north of Bessemer City Exit 14. Woods was ejected from the truck, which flipped several times and landed in an embankment. The cause of the crash was unknown; police were not in pursuit. Woods was serving time for the beating death of an 89-year-old woman on Halloween 1993.
Ohio: Cleveland.com won access to a graphic Cuyahoga County body cam video showing jail guard Brendan Johnson attacking a naked female prisoner and spraying her with pepper foam on May 10, 2016. The woman was in jail awaiting a mental competency evaluation at the time of the incident. The county claimed it was withholding the video to protect the victim, not to shield Johnson. Cleveland.com had said it would accept a copy with the prisoner’s face and body blurred, but the county still resisted. The video is one of two that display excessive force by Johnson; the other shows him pepper spraying another female prisoner. Johnson was fired, but arbitrator Robert Stein gave him his job back. County officials are appealing his reinstatement through the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. On February 22, 2018, Court of Claims Judge Patrick McGrath ordered the release of the body cam video.
Ohio: Nakisha Newell, 28, had been employed at the Butler County jail for just 18 months when she was arrested and charged with one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, in November 2017. Suspected of bringing a cell phone and e-cigarettes into the jail, an investigation revealed she had had sex with a prisoner. Newell changed her plea to guilty and was sentenced on May 17, 2018 to two years in prison and must register as a Tier III sex offender. She avoided a possible $10,000 fine. At sentencing she told the court, “I have disappointed my family, my spouse, my children and those who are close to and care about me. This is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. I am ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed in my own actions and all of the hurt, pain and stress I’ve caused everyone.”
Oregon: Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott E. Bradford said Oregon developer Shannon Egeland’s actions caused “psychological and emotional destruction” to his son and the “ghastly images of that night will forever haunt the minor child.” Egeland had already been sentenced to 10 years in prison for mortgage fraud schemes when, on February 28, 2018, 46 more months were added to his time. The day before he was to turn himself in on the fraud charges, he forced his teenage son to shoot him in the legs, hoping to collect disability insurance. Egeland told authorities he had been hit in the head and then shot while trying to help a pregnant woman in distress in Idaho. He lost his left leg in the insurance scam. Egeland appeared remorseful at sentencing, saying, “The injury that I sustained doesn’t even bother me. What bothers me the most is my son. The pain is on him. If I could take it all back, I would, but I can’t. That will haunt me the rest of my life.”
Pennsylvania: Leann M. Barr, 32, was charged with two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver and two misdemeanor drug charges after the Lancaster County Drug Task Force found a half-ounce of methamphetamine packaged in four baggies with an estimated street value of about $1,400, two capsules of fentanyl and drug paraphernalia in her car on April 23, 2018. She was arraigned and released on $20,000 unsecured bail. Barr was a nurse for PrimeCare Medical, the healthcare provider at the Lancaster County Prison. She had just started working full-time at the facility. “Because of the ongoing drug epidemic in the community we have been aggressively attacking all possible avenues for drugs into the prison,” said Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons. “That includes investigations such as this one, ending contact visitation, changes to how mail is handled, and other security measures we cannot discuss publicly. We will not rest in this fight to keep the prison safe for staff and inmates.”
South Carolina: Joshua Jerome Glover pulled in an extra $6,000 between December 2017 and March 2018 by selling marijuana and tobacco to prisoners at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville. He was charged on March 6, 2018 with possession with intent to distribute, furnishing or attempting to furnish a prisoner with contraband, accepting a bribe as a public official, misconduct in office and criminal conspiracy. Glover admitted to smuggling marijuana into the prison 10 times, and tobacco 15 times. At the time of his arrest, he also admitted to having five ounces of marijuana in his vehicle. Glover had worked as a prison guard for less than a year.
Tennessee: A surprise early morning escape from the Weakley County Detention Center on April Fool’s Day 2018 required help from the Benton County K-9 Unit and a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter. Around 6 a.m., Clinton Laster hot-wired a four-wheeler from the impound lot at the facility, drove off, then crashed the vehicle a few yards from the jail on Highway 22. Laster ran into the woods, leaving behind evidence bags containing an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine and cash from the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department. Laster had been serving time for meth-related charges since June 2016. Investigators found the jail’s evidence room unlocked and no sign of forcible entry. Officials said the stolen evidence was for past cases that had already been tried in court, and had “been thrown away.”
Texas: Just 30 minutes before a lethal injection was to end his life on February 22, 2018, Thomas “Bart” Whitaker’s death sentence was commuted by Governor Greg Abbott to life without parole. The parole board had voted 7-0 in favor of clemency. Kent Whitaker, who survived his son’s attempt to have his family murdered in 2003, had lobbied against the death sentence since the original trial. Thomas had hired a hitman, Chris Brashear, who killed his mother and brother and wounded his father. The parole board and Governor Abbott were moved by Kent Whitaker’s insistence that he “would be victimized again if the state put to death his last remaining immediate family member.”
United Kingdom: He is called the “corpse-sex threat prisoner.” Richard Ford was sentenced to 45 years in prison in December 2016 after passing a series of notes to prison officials threatening to kill several guards, a fellow prisoner, a district judge, a police officer and a former partner, and have sex with their bodies. The maximum sentence for threats is 10 years, but a judge said Ford was “highly dangerous” and Ford himself stated he did not feel he was safe to be released. Ford’s barrister, Sam Robinson, successfully appealed for a sentence reduction in March 2018. He argued that while Ford has an “extraordinarily low IQ” and had become “institutionalized,” committing crimes to stay in jail, “the role of a sentencing judge is to pass a just sentence.” Ford will now serve 12 years in custody with an eight-year license extension. He can apply for parole after eight years.
Virginia: At least three times, between December 2016 and June 30, 2017, the former assistant warden at the Indian Creek Correctional Center, Clyde Alderman, 68, received oral sex from a prisoner in his office in exchange for special employment and housing privileges. He was indicted in October 2017 on three felony counts of carnal knowledge of a prisoner. Alderman entered an Alford plea on March 19, 2018 in Chesapeake Circuit Court to three counts of solicitation. He was sentenced to 36 months in prison, suspended for two years contingent on good behavior under supervision, and was ordered to enroll in counseling. Alderman remained employed with the Virginia DOC until July 5, 2018. Prison officials refused to say whether he was terminated or allowed to retire.
Washington: It was the morning of February 3, 2018, and a prostitute resisted getting into the backseat of a blue minivan. She told the john she had had a previous bad experience. The man pulled a knife on her and said, “well you’re about to have another one.” Marquin E. Robinson had been out of the King County jail for just one day. He raped and assaulted the woman multiple times; his blue minivan was connected to two other rape cases involving prostitutes. The victim identified him from a police photo lineup, and he was picked up on his way to meet his parole officer. Robinson has a long and violent rap sheet; his bail was set at $750,000 after prosecutors successfully argued that his “extensive criminal history” indicated he would be violent again.