News in Brief
Alabama: In September 2018, Grantt Culliver, then-Associate Commissioner for Operations for the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), was placed “on leave” after misconduct allegations surfaced. “Your absence from work is deemed to be in the best interest of the department due to the nature of the allegations against you,” his suspension notice stated. The nature of the misconduct was not initially disclosed. Effective November 30, 2018, Culliver opted for early retirement with his full state pension and an unrealized benefits check of nearly $30,000. “The investigation’s findings were sent to the Alabama Ethics Commission for review,” stated ADOC Public Information Manager Bob Horton. “Therefore, the ADOC cannot provide further comment at this time.” An initial complaint was ignored by ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn, but Governor Kay Ivey’s administration demanded a thorough probe. In January 2019, the Alabama Political Reporter revealed that two complaints had been filed alleging Culliver used his position to coerce women into sexual acts. “If a female staffer didn’t have sex with him, she was transferred to Timbuktu, Alabama. And if you did, it meant promotions or other favors.”
Arizona: After 17 years of employment with the federal Bureau of Prisons, Darrell E. McCoy, 51, was sentenced to six months of house arrest and five years of probation on February 27, 2019. McCoy had been convicted on two counts of abusive sexual contact with a ward. The charges stemmed from his sexual relationship with a female prisoner at a facility in Phoenix where he was foreman of a work crew from September 2016 through December 2016. The pair continued to communicate through text messages and love notes for four months after the prisoner was released to a halfway house. Special Agent in Charge Sandra D. Barnes said in a press release, “Darrell McCoy’s duty was to protect the inmates at the prison where he worked, but instead he abused his power by engaging in sexual conduct with one of those inmates.” McCoy was not required to register as a sex offender.
California: Paul James Hayes II, 49, was a lieutenant with the Bureau of Prisons’ Special Investigation Services (SIS), which investigates illegal activity by prison staff and prisoners, when he was arrested on February 28, 2019. He had been on leave since October 2018. SIS became aware of Hayes while monitoring phone calls and emails between an unnamed prisoner and Angel Marie Wagner, 42. Wagner was set to meet a BOP employee in the parking lot of a Home Depot on July 15, 2018. Agents watched Hayes arrive in his Hyundai Santa Fe. Wagner approached and handed him a brown-colored envelope, which he stashed in his car. During interrogation, Wagner admitted to receiving wire transfers for Hayes from other people and passing him wrapped items, which she speculated were cell phones and drugs. She said she believed she had passed him $40,000 in cash. Hayes’ bank account also received $12,520 in unexplained cash deposits. Wagner was arrested on March 1, 2018 on conspiracy and bribery charges, and released on $50,000 bond. Hayes’ bond was set at $170,000.
California: Johna Martinez-Meth, 46, visited Adrian Sepulveda, who was serving a life sentence at the California Medical Facility, on May 28, 2018. Soon after, Sepulveda was found dead. An autopsy revealed at least one meth-filled balloon inside his body had burst, causing a fatal overdose. Investigators determined that Martinez-Meth had secreted the balloons on her body and passed them to Sepulveda, who swallowed them during their visit. A search warrant was served on Martinez-Meth’s home on August 2, 2018. Methamphetamine, balloons and glue were found, and she was arrested. On February 21, 2019, Martinez-Meth pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to two years in prison. Jared Lozano, acting warden of the California Medical Facility, released a statement, saying: “I am proud to work with a team that continues to show an unrelenting commitment to protecting our staff, inmate population and visitors alike.”
Colorado: It started with complaints of sexual harassment by Undersheriff Fernando Mendoza at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. He was fired and restraining orders were entered. In April 2018, his attorney withdrew from the case “due to insurance issues.” He was provided with a public defender. The complaints, by female 911 dispatchers, helped Autumn Roybal gain the courage to speak out in court on December 6, 2018 against Mendoza, her stepfather, for attempted incest. Four days later he was found guilty of attempting to commit first-degree aggravated incest and attempting to commit invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. He had placed a Sheriff’s Office camera in Roybal’s bedroom and bathroom. Fifth Judicial Judge Karen Romeo reduced the invasion of privacy charge from a felony to a class two misdemeanor. She also increased Mendoza’s bond from $100,000 to $250,000. He was acquitted on attempted sexual exploitation of a child and embezzlement of public property charges. Mendoza was sentenced on April 26, 2019 to 15 months in jail. “He was supposed to uphold the law, and rather he flaunted it,” said Assistant District Attorney Heidi McCollum.
Connecticut: Carlos Sanchez, 33, reported to FCI Oakdale on May 21, 2019 to serve a 10-month sentence, followed by five years of supervised release. Sanchez was a guard at FCI Danbury in July and August 2018 when he had sex with a female prisoner. In December 2018, he had pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of a ward.
Florida: Aaron Hull, a 12-year veteran of the Pinellas County jail, was fired by the Administrative Review Board on January 17, 2019 after video footage confirmed his use of excessive force against a wheelchair-bound prisoner on September 24, 2018. “He knew what he should have done but it seems like he got mad and couldn’t control his anger,” stated Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. During a housing unit lockdown, disabled prisoner Taylor Schuessler, 24, talked back to Hull and other prisoners. Hull told him to stop. When Schuessler ignored him, Hull kicked his own chair out of the way, grabbed Schuessler by the neck and poked him in the face several times. Schuessler spat at Hull. The guard then slapped Schuessler on the left side of his face three times. A Pinellas County spokesman said, “[Hull] grasped him around his torso until the inmate de-escalated his resistance.” Hull told investigators, “I realized I could have handled things a little differently, definitely better.” No charges were filed and Schuessler was not seriously hurt. Hull had been disciplined in 2015 for flipping a table over.
Florida: Ron Book, 66, a powerful lobbyist for private prison company GEO Group, ran his Lamborghini into the rear of a Ford Focus, causing the Focus to flip over on I-595 on February 25, 2019. Book was charged with first-time DUI and DUI with damage to a person or property. “Out of nowhere, I got hit from the back and I ended up rolling three times right into a concrete barrier,” said the driver of the Focus, Deryk Rivera. “Next thing I know, I’m hanging upside down inside the car with the seat belt still attached.” Book claimed that Rivera cut him off, but the damage to the vehicles didn’t back up his statements. Dashcam video showed Book struggling to pass a field sobriety test. He refused a breathalyzer, leading to a charge of refusal to submit to a DUI test. Book paid $1,500 bail the following day and was released from the Broward County Main Jail. He suggested to reporters that his cancer medications were responsible for the accident. Rivera, meanwhile, has retained an attorney.
Georgia: It is unclear when Deangelo Bell, 26, was recaptured. On February 20, 2019, detectives with the Motor Vehicle Theft Unit (MVT) were surprised to find a “cloned” 2018 Dodge Challenger with an Alabama dealer tag parked at the Gwinnett County Department of Corrections’ work release center. Detectives believe Bell saw them investigating the car and took off, not reporting back to the center after his work shift. Dealer tags are often used to conceal stolen vehicles; the MVT had already recovered 10 such vehicles with altered VIN numbers. The Challenger had been purchased from a Conyers dealership using fraudulent information. The Gwinnett County jail roster later showed Deangelo Bell being held without bond on charges of probation violation, theft by receiving stolen property and two counts of identity fraud.
Idaho: Three men who tried to escape the Payette County jail are now in separate state prisons. Christopher Eversole, 32, John Lott, 26, and Mason Hughes, 21, all faked being sick after midnight on December 9, 2018. When they were taken to the medical area, they beat Lieutenant Andy Creech with a tablet they had slipped into a pillow case. Creech said the men never made it outside the facility; he was taken to a local hospital for stitches to several cuts to his head and released that day. Lott is now serving time at the Idaho State Correctional Institution for aggravated battery, attempted escape and riot – all related to the escape attempt. Eversole is in state prison on a variety of forgery, burglary, bad checks, riot, aggravated battery and theft convictions as well as for the escape attempt. Mason Hughes is at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution on grand theft, stolen vehicle and escape convictions.
Illinois: Asante Brown, 23, was beaten at the Pontiac Correctional Center on February 3, 2019. Former prison guard Giovanni Rodriguez, Sgt. Jason Cremer and Lt. James Fike were charged with battery and official misconduct in Livingston County Court later that month, following an internal investigation. It is not clear if the three guards resigned or were fired. Fike entered a plea deal on July 16, 2019, in which prosecutors dropped a felony misconduct charge in exchange for a guilty plea on the battery charge. He received a conditional discharge, avoiding a three-month sentence so long as he complies with the terms of the agreement. Charges against Cremer were unexpectedly dropped on August 9, 2019 with no explanation from prosecutors. Rodriquez pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor in early September, and will be sentenced in November 2019.
Kansas: Calvin Henry Green III, 36, had served four years at the Lansing Correctional Facility during his latest stint behind bars when he absconded in a camo-painted state dump truck on January 7, 2019. Green wasn’t on work release but had a job inside the prison, so it was unclear how he was able to gain access to the truck. The warden ordered an emergency head count at 1:20 p.m. to confirm Green’s absence. The U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force was called in and Crime Stoppers was alerted to seek assistance from the public. The dump truck was found abandoned in Kansas City the following day. Green remained on the lam until January 10, 2019, after the Marshals received a tip he was at a home in Independence, Missouri. Green answered the door when they knocked, and left peacefully. He was returned to the Lansing prison, where he will presumably face additional charges.
Kentucky: Allen Lewis was being moved from the Greenup County Detention Center, where he had completed one sentence, to Morgan County, where he faced other charges, on December 18, 2018. He was supposed to be temporarily housed at the Rowan County Detention Center. During the transport he complained about his handcuffs. Greenup County jailer Mike Worthington pulled over to adjust them. A struggle ensued, one cuff was released and Lewis fled. “We got a dog from Boyd County ... searching where we had lost the tracks and they started tracking him, and we tried to cut off all his avenues,” Worthington said. Lewis made it to Highway 64 and started hitchhiking. A car driven by a Morehead State University campus police officer stopped to pick him up. The driver noticed the cuff on one of Lewis’ hands, and drove him back to jail. Worthington told reporters, “He thought he was getting a ride, and he did.”
Louisiana: On February 8, 2019, detectives started an investigation after a Terrebonne Parish prisoner complained that Kelly Nelson Norris got his family to pay $2,500 in cash to the “Linda Green Bail Bond Company.” The victim realized it was a scam when he wasn’t bonded out of jail. After Norris was arrested and jailed with a bond of $150,000, he threatened his victim. An intimidating a witness charge was added, raising Norris’ bond to $475,000. Before the bail bond scam, Norris had been charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. Wilhelmina Clay, 35, was identified as his accomplice in the bail bond scheme, and faces conspiracy to commit theft and felony theft charges.
Michigan: The trial of Dr. Steven Paul Cogswell, 54, on five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving three female Macomb County jail prisoners during medical exams in August and September 2018, was scheduled for November 19, 2019. Cogswell had worked for the jail’s medical services provider, Correct Care Solutions, for 13 months until he was fired and criminally charged in October 2018. Another prisoner tipped off the sheriff’s office about Cogswell’s misconduct, and investigators seized his phone and found photos and videos of the three victims and alleged sexual acts. Cogswell waived his right to a probable cause hearing, and posted a $250,000 bond in February 2019.
Minnesota: Ramsey County Commissioners voted unanimously to give Terrell Wilson $525,000 in compensation for an excessive force incident at the Ramsey County jail that occurred on April 13, 2016. A 13-minute video of the incident wasn’t released until February 2019. Travis Vandewiele and five other guards are seen on the surveillance video attempting to strap a handcuffed Terrell Wilson into a restraint chair. Wilson had been arrested for stealing two cell phones from a nightclub. Vandewiele, a former Marine, is heard saying, “You ain’t seen excessive force yet,” before punching Wilson in the abdomen four times. Wilson then pleads, “Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. I’m sorry.” The Washington County Sheriff’s Office began a criminal investigation 13 days later. Vandewiele was initially put on paid administrative leave. In a January 2018 plea agreement with the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and paid a $150 fine. By the time he resigned in February 2019, Vandewiele had collected $121,555 in wages and was entitled to $9,629 more in vacation and sick pay.
New Mexico: Three prisoners who escaped from the Curry County Adult Detention Center on the morning of June 15, 2018 had inside help from a female master control operator, according to jail administrator Mark Gallegos. The guard shut off alarms, unlocked doors and gave a false prisoner headcount, allowing the escapees an 11-minute head start. Sarina Dodson, 28, the master control operator, was fired and pleaded guilty on January 28, 2019 to three counts of aiding escape and a single count of bringing contraband into the jail. The escapees, Aaron Clark, Victor Apodaca and Ricky Sena, surrendered four days after they absconded, following a stand-off with a SWAT team at the apartment of Jon Hausmann. Hausmann pleaded guilty on January 24, 2019 to harboring or aiding a felon, a fourth-degree felony.
New York: Former Wallkill Correctional Facility guard Trayvon Webb was held at the Ulster County jail before posting $5,000 cash bail. Webb, 30, resigned in February 2019 after he was caught trying to smuggle 64 grams of synthetic marijuana, known as “K2,” into the prison. Investigators found an additional 137 grams of the drug in Webb’s vehicle. He was charged with first-degree promoting prison contraband and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, both felonies, and two misdemeanors: seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and official misconduct.
Ohio: On December 10, 2018, at about 10:45 a.m., Victer Crenshaw turned himself into the Erie County jail for failure to appear for a court hearing. According to Crenshaw, “I was told that it would take an hour or an hour and a half, and I would be released on bond. I took my dogs with me because they are my best friends.” However, there were problems with the fax machine and Crenshaw wasn’t able to post the $13,000 bond. At 5:45 p.m., he asked guards to check on his Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier, which had been left in his truck for seven hours. He now faces charges of animal cruelty, carrying a concealed weapon (a knife with his work tools) and marijuana possession. “If you’re not able to post bond, that’s fine, the dog warden would have come to take care of them,” said Erie County Sheriff Paul Sigsworth. “But to wait seven hours to tell someone, that’s inexcusable.” The dogs were unhurt. Crenshaw eventually posted bond and was reunited with his pets on December 12, 2018. He plans to fight the new charges.
Oklahoma: A supervisor was fired and two deputies resigned after Isaiah Smith got to the Wagoner County Detention Center’s booking area on February 15, 2019 with a handgun still on his person. Sheriff Chris Elliot said the problems began with the Wagoner City police. The arresting officer was responsible for making sure a suspect has no weapons, but he didn’t find the firearm. When Smith, who was wearing several layers of clothing, was asked if he had anything illegal on him, he said, “no.” Bringing a gun into the jail is a felony offense. A second search also missed the weapon. From there, Elliot said other breaches of protocol occurred. Smith was allowed to stand behind guards while at the jail, and was left alone in the booking area. Sheriff Elliot said he is now supervising the training of new hires and retraining current officers himself. It is unclear if the arresting police officer was reprimanded.
Oregon: In an attempt to bail out a friend arrested for driving while intoxicated, Eric Benjamin Sumpter, 35, succeeded in getting himself arrested on the same charge. Early on January 20, 2019, Christina Elizabeth Morton, 40 was seen driving away from the Pour House Tavern in Springfield after backing into a new Toyota 4Runner. Police found her white Ford pickup and arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants. Bail was set at $3,000, and Sumpter, 35, came to pick her up from the Springfield Municipal Jail. He was, however, “very intox[icated],” according to dispatch records. He was booked on suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicants, with bail set at $2,500.
Pennsylvania: The state’s prison system had a contraband problem, so they hired a private company to receive and scan all incoming mail in an effort to stop illicit items, including drugs, from being mailed to prisoners. [See: PLN, Sept. 2019, p.60]. However, at least five staff members at various prisons have been arrested for smuggling contraband in the past year, indicating the problem is an internal one. Stephen Palermini, at SCI Somerset, was apparently a middleman in a K2 and cell phone racket. When one of his imprisoned customers was caught with a cell phone, the prisoner flushed the evidence down the toilet. Damien Robinson, 45, an activities specialist at SCI Somerset, hid K2 in crossword puzzle and Sudoku books. Rick Davis, at SCI Houtzdale, used dining hall bathrooms as drug pick-up spots; he was busted in March 2019, as were Palermini and Robinson. Jay J. Groover III, a guard at the old SCI Graterford, brazenly hid Suboxone in bathroom trashcans for prisoners to pick up. He was sentenced to six to 12 months in jail in October 2018. Skyler R. Galgon, 35, was arrested in January 2019 for smuggling weed and drug paraphernalia into SCI Cambridge Springs. In 2017, Galgon had been sentenced to probation after alcohol, a pistol and ammunition were found in his vehicle on prison grounds. [See: PLN, March 2018, p.63].
Tennessee: Thomas J. Myers, 29, a Juvenile Court Probation Officer in Nashville, was immediately placed on administrative leave and his access to juvenile court records blocked in December 2018, amid accusations that he had inappropriately touched one of his probationers. A 16-year-old male reported that he and Myers were in Myers’ truck discussing the terms of the young man’s probation in November 2018 when the touching occurred. Sex Crimes Detective Elizabeth Mills opened an investigation. The victim told the investigator that Myers gave him a choice of engaging in sexual acts in return for making his drug test disappear, if the results registered positive for drug use. Myers was arrested on December 6, 2018 and charged with sexual battery by an authority figure. He was released on $10,000 bond. Metro Nashville’s Youth Services Sex Crimes Unit asked that other youths victimized by Myers call a hotline.
Texas: Another former prison employee, FCI Seagoville guard Erica McCoy, 32, has had to register as a sex offender. She pleaded guilty to abusive sexual contact with a prisoner in August 2018. McCoy said she “stumbled upon” prisoner “D.E.” in the summer of 2017, when he was cleaning the carpet in her office. They had regular sexual contact until “D.E.” was moved to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) after the Office of the Inspector General began an investigation. McCoy then resigned. At sentencing on February 25, 2019, Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Elise Chawaga stated, “Today’s sentence demonstrates that corruption and abuse of power have no place in our federal prisons and will not be tolerated.” McCoy was sentenced to a year and a day.
Utah: Weber County jailer Jeremy Clark Miller, 41, who was in charge of female prisoners at the jail in downtown Ogden, was indicted on five counts of custodial sexual relations on January 7, 2019. An investigation by the county attorney’s office began in November 2018. Miller was placed on paid administrative leave the following month. Two state prisoners admitted to having consensual sexual intercourse with him at the jail; the Utah DOC contracts with county jails to house some state prisoners. Miller admitted to “sexual conversations” with the prisoners, but lied about giving his cell phone number to one of the women, so they could continue their relationship after she was released. A search of his truck turned up condoms. He was booked into the Box Elder County jail on January 3, 2019, then posted bail and was released. In July 2019, Miller pleaded no contest to one charge of custodial sexual relations; in exchange, four similar charges were dropped. He was sentenced in September 2019 to 60 days in jail, with all except one week to be served on work release. He was also placed on probation for four years.
West Virginia: A former high-ranking federal Bureau of Prisons guard at FPC Alderson, Captain Jarred Grimes, 40, was sentenced to a maximum 10-year prison term on January 9, 2019 for having intercourse with four prisoners and other sexual contact with two others between November 2016 and December 2017. Upon his release he will have to register as a sex offender. In June 2018, Grimes pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse of a ward and two counts of abusive sexual contact involving a ward. At that time, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart stated, “Grimes was in a position of trust and near absolute authority over inmates who had absolutely no ability to flee or escape. Any and all instances of gross and egregious corruption like this will be prosecuted by my office and we will seek the maximum penalties permitted by law.”
Wyoming: The Casper Re-Entry Center has a retention problem. Each year for three years, at least a dozen prisoners have escaped, usually by not returning from work. The Re-Entry Center is tasked with providing rehabilitation and substance abuse treatment; it provides an “alternative to incarceration or traditional probation/parole supervision,” according to the Wyoming Board of Parole. If prisoners abscond, the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office files charges of “escape from official detention,” a felony that carries up to ten years in prison. The facility does have a secure unit. In December 2018, Richard Thomas Fountaine climbed a wall and chain-link fence to escape. He was aided by Re-Entry Center employee Kimberly Belcher, who had given him a cell phone and was believed to be on the lam with Fountaine. They were captured on January 11, 2019 in Georgia. Monica Hook, a spokeswoman for the GEO Group, the private prison company that runs the Re-Entry Center, declined to comment on the troubling history of escapes and employee/prisoner sexual encounters at the facility.