News in Brief
Alabama: In February 2020, a grand jury in Limestone County, Alabama, returned an indictment for “possession/receipt of a controlled substance” against Travis Wales, a former guard at the Limestone County Correctional Facility in Harvest. According to Columbus, Georgia, TV station WBRL, Wales was arrested in September 2019 after a canine unit from the Investigations and Intelligence Division (IID) of the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) found him entering the prison with contraband: a bag of methamphetamine, a tablet of Subutex – a methadone alternative used in treating addiction – and a bottle of synthetic urine substitute called U-pass, which is used to fool a urine test. The 39-year-old Wales, a 12-year veteran of DOC, resigned immediately after his arrest. IID Director Arnaldo Mercado called the arrest “an example of our department’s proactive measures to eradicate criminal activity inside our correctional facilities.”
California: A brutal attack at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atwater, California, left an officer with the federal Bureau of Prisons kicked, beaten and stabbed with homemade knives in October 2017. Six prisoners were charged, four of whom pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, while the other two were tried in May 2019. Jonathan Mota, 37, was convicted of attempted murder, and Dominic Adams, 27, was convicted of assault. Both were sentenced in July 2020 by federal Judge Lawrence J. O’Niell, receiving the maximum 20-year sentence, to be served consecutive to their current terms. The guard was working as a teacher when he was attacked. Another guard was injured when he attempted to respond to the incident. The other prisoners were Eric Chiago, 28, who received a 188-month term; William Roe Acevedo, 33, who was sentenced to 13 years; Michael Martin, 30, whose sentence was set at 150 months; and Joey Thomas, 26, who received a 97-month term.
California: On August 21, 2020, actress Lori Laughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were sentenced for their role in a 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. The couple paid consultant William “Rick” Singer $500,000 to help get their daughters accepted to the University of Southern California using fake credentials as members of a crew team. The young women, now 20 and 21, had never participated in the sport. Laughlin, best known for playing “Aunt Becky” on 1990s TV hit Full House, was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton also fined the 56-year-old $150,000. Giannulli, 57, received a five-month prison term, two years of parole, 250 hours of community service and a $250,000 fine. Laughlin admitted to Judge Gorton that she had “made an awful mistake” which “undermined and diminished” her daughters’ “abilities and accomplishments.” Singer, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges, has been cooperating with federal prosecutors and has not yet been sentenced.
California: On August 10, 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) announced that the city’s jails would become the first in the nation to provide prisoners and detainees free phone calls. Video calls will also be free, Politico reported. Breed said Sheriff Paul Miyamoto had also eliminated jail commissary markups, reducing prices an average of 43 percent. Prisoners at the Calaveras County Jail (CCJ), 125 miles east of San Francisco, had threatened a hunger strike in September 2019 to protest phone rates and commissary prices. CCJ Capt. Chris Hewitt said that when research showed some items were offered for less at the Tulare County Jail commissary, the vendor for both jails, Swanson Services Corp., agreed to lower prices at CCJ. Hewitt added that negotiations were still ongoing with the jail’s phone service provider. But strike leader Marc Holocker said on October 2, 2019, that he and 16 other inmates would call off their hunger strike. State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) has sponsored SB 555 to reduced both phone rates and commissary prices in state jails and prisons. It was scheduled for a hearing before the state Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 14, 2020.
California: On July 25, 2020, two months after a Minneapolis policeman brutally murdered an unarmed man – George Floyd, whose death set off nationwide demonstrations demanding police reform – a related protest in Oakland, California, turned violent when a handful from a crowd of about 700 demonstrators vandalized the Oakland Police Department building and set fire to the Alameda County Superior Courthouse, Arab News reported. The violence also targeted police with lasers and fireworks. The protest began peacefully, with marchers gathering in solidarity with protesters in Portland, Oregon, who clashed violently with federally contracted armed militiamen sent by President Trump to guard that city’s federal courthouse. Two similar protests the same day elsewhere in the state also turned violent. In Sacramento, some 150 demonstrators attacked a TV news crew. And in Los Angeles, about 100 protesters vandalized the federal Bureau of Prisons’ Metropolitan Detention Center. Violent clashes resumed after a Milwaukee policeman shot another unarmed man, Jacob Blake, on August 23, 2020. Three days later, Oakland police said that “numerous fires (had been) set, dozens of windows broken, (and) multiple businesses vandalized.”
Florida: In July 2020, Justin Lane was scheduled to finish a15-year term at Florida’s Santa Rosa Correctional Institute near Pensacola. But instead of release, the 36-year-old headed to federal prison for another 10 years to serve a sentence received in July 2019 after the FBI traced a pair of threatening letters to him that were sent to prosecutors at the Polk County State Attorney’s Office in Lakeland. As reported by the Associated Press, the August 2017 letters contained a powdery substance and a message: “die, die, die, ha, ha, ha, anthrax, goodbye.” Rachel Rojas, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville Division, said that bio-threat protocols were initiated, and the substance was determined not to be harmful. Lane had been serving a sentence earned with a conviction in state court for committing similar crimes in West Palm Beach.
Florida: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) has disciplined more officers for excessive force than any other law enforcement agency in Florida, according to a June 2020 analysis by the USA Today Network. The study, which covered a 35-year period dating back to 1985, found that 72 JSO deputies were disciplined, including former deputy Jared Tazewell, who resigned before he could be fired for punching a mentally ill prisoner to the floor in April 2019 at the JSO jail. Though 54-year-old Marc Duncanson became agitated and threw his walker at the deputy, he was not charged with assault because he had already been declared mentally unfit to stand trial. JSO investigators found Tazewell’s use of force excessive, and a termination memo for him had already been signed by Sheriff Rick Staly when the deputy resigned. Statewide data revealed that less than a third of the officers disciplined for excessive force were fired or resigned, and 20 percent of those were rehired elsewhere in the state.
Florida: On July 8, 2020, Jamaul Akeem Jackson was arrested at Lowell Correctional Institution (LCI) near Ocala, where the 30-year-old prison guard held a supervisory position, and charged with sexually assaulting a female prisoner. The unnamed woman had provided investigators from the Department of Corrections’ Office of the Inspector General with evidence that she preserved from the incident, which took place several days earlier in a dormitory maintenance room at the women’s prison, the state’s largest. Jackson, who was hired in November 2015, then complied with a DNA request and admitted the incident, according to a report in the Ocala Star Banner. His case follows that of another LCI worker, 37-year-old Samuel Derea Williams, who lost his job as food service coordinator after he was arrested on September 18, 2019, and charged with battery for grabbing a prisoner’s buttocks. That same day, former LCI guard trainee Nicholas Seaborn Jefferson, 27, was sentenced to a two-year prison term for having sex with a prisoner a year earlier. Meanwhile former LCI guard Keith Turner remains under investigation, along with Ryan Dionne, who remains employed at LCI, for their role in an August 2019 beating that left prisoner Cheryl Weimar paralyzed. On August 25, 2020, the state settled her lawsuit with an agreement to pay the 51-year-old $4.65 million, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Florida: In July 2020, an unnamed 34-year-old woman from Fort Pierce, Florida, was charged with attempting to smuggle contraband into the St. Lucie County Jail after deputies conducting a strip search ordered an X-ray that revealed a suspected meth pipe hidden in her anus. According to a report in the TC Palm, the woman had been taken to the jail on suspicion of DUI after she was found slumped over the steering wheel of her car with her foot on the brake pedal and the engine running in “drive.” Her arrest for attempted smuggling followed that of a guard at the jail, Toby Johnson, who delivered an allegedly pornographic magazine to an inmate in September 2019. Investigators said the 23-year-old deputy gave the copy of Straight Stuntin’ to the inmate and then delivered a letter from the prisoner to the man’s sister at a restaurant where she worked, in violation of state law.
Georgia: In August 2020, a guard at a privately operated Georgia prison pleaded guilty to a bribery charge for smuggling cigarettes to a prisoner. Investigators found evidence of the crime in text messages left on a contraband cellphone that the inmate also had. According to a report by TV station WTOG in St. Petersburg, Florida, the 25-year-old guard, Michael Eaddy, accepted a $246.25 bribe from Jean Civil, also 25, who is a Haitian inmate at the D. Ray Janes Correctional Facility in Folkston, Georgia. Eaddy will serve six months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. Civil had a month added to a 78-month sentence he is serving for a cocaine-dealing conviction. The prison, the largest employer in rural Charlton County, is owned and operated under contract from the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) by Florida-based GEO Group, Inc., the country’s largest private prison operator with $2,477 billion in 2019 revenues. All BOP inmates at the prison were scheduled to be relocated outside the county by the end of September 2020, resulting in a loss of some 316 jobs.
Georgia: Four stings conducted between September 2019 and June 2020 netted a total of 35 arrests in northwest Georgia, including those of two Floyd County Jail guards. Deputies Michael Landon Jones, 30, and Samuel James Kendrick, 25, were arrested by agents with the state Department of Corrections in September 2019 for smuggling contraband – including drugs, tobacco and cellphones – to prisoners at the lockup. That same month a task force of Rome police officers and Floyd County deputies nabbed 20 people, including Christopher Shane Smith, who allegedly helped run a branch of the Aryan Brotherhood gang from his cell during a 15-year prison term he completed in July 2019. The task force made five more arrests in December 2019. On June 25, 2020, officers nabbed 37-year-old Christopher Pope after he sold meth to a witness cooperating with the task force. Angel Pope, 38, and Chet White, 35, were also collared in that sting.
Georgia: When they saw a deputy guarding them lose consciousness in July 2020, three men held at the Gwinnett County Jail in Lawrenceville, Georgia, did not ignore him or try to take advantage of the situation, instead pounding on cell doors for help, CNN reported. The unnamed deputy regained consciousness and opened the cell doors, believing in his confusion that prisoners were trying to alert him to the distress of one of their own. He then passed out again, but rather than attempting escape through their opened cell doors, the three inmates – who were also unnamed – began trying to revive the unconscious deputy. A post to the Facebook page of the county sheriff’s office said the incident “clearly illustrates the potential goodness” found in both the inmates and the deputy, whose plight moved them to offer help because he had treated them “with the dignity they deserve.” As of August 31, 2020, the post had been liked and shared over 270,000 times.
Kentucky: A former guard at the Boyd County Detention Center in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, was charged with sodomy in September 2019 for allegedly having sex with an inmate at the jail. Kristapher D. Mackey, 36, then pleaded not guilty and was released from the Greenup County lockup on a $25,000 cash bond, according to a report in the Ashland, Kentucky, Daily Independent. An internal jail investigation resulted in Mackey’s arrest and charge for engaging in “deviate sexual intercourse” with an inmate, resulting in his termination later that same month. If convicted he could serve up to five years in prison.
Louisiana: Adrian T. King, a guard at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, was arrested in September 2019 and charged with attempting to smuggle drugs to prisoners. According to a report in the Plaquemine Post South, a crackdown on contraband at the state’s second-largest prison resulted in a search of King’s car that turned up 0.10 ounces of marijuana. The guard, then 29, had worked at the prison just under 11 months, allowing the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections to terminate his employment under provisions of his initial probationary term.
Maryland: Because he “placed our officers and staff in danger and jeopardized our public safety mission,” Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Robert L. Green told Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP that former prison guard Antoine Fordham would begin serving a 35-year prison term in September 2019, with no more than 15 years suspended. The harsh sentence was handed down in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that same month to the then-33-year-old for his role leading members of a Crips gang both inside and outside the Jessup Correctional Institution where he was a sergeant. Another 25 people were also convicted on charges of smuggling contraband into the prison and engaging in gang activity, including a second guard, Phillipe Jordan. He received a 10-year prison sentence, with no more than 6-and-a-half suspended. The two guards were caught in 2017 taking bribes from an inmate’s sister to smuggle drugs and cellphones to prisoners.
New Jersey: A 42-year-old nurse at a New Jersey prison for young men was arrested in September 2019 and charged with illegally accessing medical records to “further her illicit relationship with an inmate,” the New York Post reported. As a result, Charita Wimberly lost her job as a contract employee at Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale. The prison, which was renamed in early 2020 for former state Department of Corrections head William H. Fauver, houses over 800 men ages 18 to 30, all of whom were convicted as juveniles. No details were released of the prisoner with whom Wimberly allegedly had her affair. Acting Hunterdon County Prosecutor Michael H. Williams also charged her with official misconduct for assuming a false identity to transmit money to the prisoner.
North Carolina: On August 6, 2020, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office released video showing 28 times over 46 minutes on December 2, 2019, that detainee John Neville told staff at the county jail in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, that he couldn’t breathe after the 56-year-old fell from bed in a holding cell and was restrained on his stomach with his feet and hands “hogtied” together behind his back. He was transferred to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he died two days later of a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation, the Raleigh News and Observer reported. After Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough Jr. waited seven months to publicly announce Neville’s death, Forsyth County Superior Court Judge R. Gregory Horne ordered the video footage released on July 31, 2020, citing a “compelling public interest.” Kimbrough has said he delayed partly at the request of Neville’s family. On July 8, 2020, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill announced criminal charges in the incident against jail nurse Michelle Heughins, 44, and five former guards: Lavette Maria Williams, 47; Edward Joseph Roussel, 50; Christopher Bryan Stamper, 42; Antonio Woodley Jr., 26; and Sarah Elizabeth Poole, 36.
Ohio: Two people guilty of cashing $3,000 in forged reimbursement checks for unused commissary funds from the Licking County Justice Center in Newark, Ohio, have been sentenced. Keith Gibson, Jr., 34, received a four-year prison term in September 2019, plus a concurrent six-month term followed by three years of supervised release in November 2019, for two convictions of counterfeiting a legitimate refund check he had received following his 2018 release from the jail, according to reports in the Zaynesville Y City News and the Newark Advocate. His co-defendant, Nikole Wiegand, 30, was already back in jail on felony drug charges when she admitted her involvement in spending the money and received an additional 18 months added to her sentence in September 2019. However, she denied knowing where the checks had come from. The sentences included fines for restitution – over $840 for Gibson and $2,000 for Wiegand.
Ohio: In June 2020, a guard at the Gallia County Jail in Gallipolis, Ohio, filed suit over injuries she sustained during a September 2019 jailbreak. Debra Smith’s complaint alleges that Sheriff Matt Champlin ignored jail policy that prevents female guards from supervising male inmates without assistance from male guards. Smith and another female guard were left alone at the jail on the night of September 29, 2020, when four men – Troy McDaniel Jr., 30, Brynn Martin, 40, Christopher Clemente, 24, and Lawrence Lee III, 29 – used a shank to overpower the women, stealing keys from one of them to a personal vehicle in which they fled to a another waiting getaway car. Lee was recaptured a day later in Durham, North Carolina, not long after his three fellow escapees were found and arrested at a Red Roof Inn in Cary, North Carolina. The Gallia County Jail is a 50-year-old facility whose cell doors have remained unlocked for several decades to make room for all of its 22 beds, according to a report by TV station WGCL in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ohio: In late July 2020, former guard Amanda Smith, 37, was scheduled for arraignment on a sexual battery charge after she was discovered in September 2019 conducting a sexual affair with a prisoner at Warren Correctional Institution, one of two state prisons in Lebanon, Ohio. That same month, another former guard at the facility allegedly received oral sex from a prisoner. Ari D. Combs, 30, was slated for trial in August 2020 on a sexual battery charge stemming from that incident, though prosecutors admitted the case against him was severely weakened by the inadmissibility of statements he made before being read his Miranda rights. He was terminated by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in February 2020, a month after Smith resigned. A year before their alleged trysts played out, a former guard at the other prison in town assaulted a handcuffed prisoner after helping to break up a fight between rival gangs at Lebanon Correctional Institution. During the September 2018 melee, former guard John B. Hinkle, 52, wielded a baton in a “tomahawk motion” to strike a handcuffed prisoner, leaving Malcom Cox, 24, with a fractured jaw and a hole in his mouth, according to assault charges reported in the Butler County News Journal. A Warren County jury convicted Hinkle in October 2019.
Ohio: A detainee who pried his own eye out of its socket at the Hamilton County Jail in Cincinnati, Ohio, has had his murder case continued until late September 2020. Aqeel Watson, 43, is also no longer listed at the jail, according to a report in The Cincinnati Enquirer. Watson is charged with fatally stabbing 45-year-old Lamont Palmer 50 times in Palmer’s Mt. Airy home in September 2019. Watson was on suicide watch at the jail when guards noticed blood in his cell and found him with a severe head wound from his self-conducted enucleation.
Ohio: In September 2020, guard John Wilson was suspended without pay for 15 days from the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio, as punishment for his February 2020 guilty plea to a misdemeanor assault charge against a former prisoner. During the February 2018 incident, Wilson pepper-sprayed Joshua Castleberry and knocked out three of the Army veteran’s front teeth, one of which lodged in a nasal cavity and required surgery to remove it, according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Wilson and fellow guard Jason Jozwiak were acquitted of civil rights violations following the incident, and a mistrial was declared when the jury split along racial lines to get hung on additional charges of felonious assault against Wilson. His plea avoided a retrial on those charges. A lawsuit filed by Castleberry in February 2020 against both guards and the county is still pending.
Oregon: In January 2020, a second prisoner at the Marion County Jail in Salem, Oregon, was sentenced for attacking guard Stacy Headrick in 2016, according to a report by TV station KPTV. She was strangled but able to fight off the men and call for help from other deputies. For his part in the incident, Brian Eller, 43, received a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to charges including attempted aggravated murder. His fellow inmate, 49-year-old Bradley William Monical, was convicted by a jury on the same charge and others in September 2019, receiving a 14-year sentence. Monical was convicted of a series of 2010 bank robberies, but he escaped from the Jackson County Jail with a dramatic jump from the roof in 2012. Following a 51-week manhunt, he was recaptured in 2013. The state Department of Corrections says his earliest release date is April 2076.
Pennsylvania: At a hearing in Pennsylvania’s Indiana County Court on May 21, 2020, the trial of Simere Alford was postponed from June 22 to September 8, Pittsburgh radio station WCCS reported. Alford, who is also known as Simere Ord, was first arrested in 2017 at age 18 for the attempted murder of his 7-year-old sister while high on drugs. On June 24, 2019, the then-20-year-old was being transported from a hearing at Magisterial District Court in Clymer back to the State Correctional Institute (SCI) at Pine Grove when he escaped his restraints and took the gun of a male state trooper, firing it and nearly hitting him. The patrol car then crashed into a guard rail, fracturing the arm of a female trooper also escorting Alford. He was charged with a pair of counts of attempting to murder a law enforcement officer, two of 22 total charges for which he will stand trial before President Judge William Martin.
Pennsylvania: In May 2020, former counselor Samantha Heinrich, 38, was sentenced to a prison term of three to 18 months after pleading guilty to propositioning inmates for sex while working at the Lackawanna County Prison in Scranton, Pennsylvania, According to a report by local TV station WNEP, she is the fourth staff member convicted in a recent series of sexual abuse charges at the prison. In February 2019, former guard Jeffrey Staff, 43, pleaded no contest and was sentenced to nine months of probation for having sex with a prisoner on work release. Three months later, former guard George Efthimiou, 51, received a two-year probationary sentence for having sex with another inmate at her home after her release on probation. In February 2020, former guard James Walsh, 53, was fined $500 after he admitted to sexually harassing prisoners. A fifth former guard, Mark Johnson, 54, was acquitted by a Scranton jury in September 2019 of charges he forced inmates to have sex.
Peru: By April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Latin America, 2,500 inmates incarcerated at Lurigancho prison in Lima, Peru, had become infected with the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, which had killed 33 of them. Protests erupted to demand improved conditions, resulting in nine more deaths and several dozen injuries before the National Penitentiary Council created a containment plan for the prison, with which Vice President Rafael Castillo plans to prevent a wave of sick prisoners from swamping the country’s hospitals. Now some prisoners act as health-care monitors to alert medical staff to potential new COVID-19 infections, Voice Of America reports. According to a Washington Post database, Peru – whose population ranks forty-third in the world – had the fifth-highest case total and the eighth-highest total number of deaths to COVID-19 as of September 2020.
South Africa: After a jailbreak July 26, 2020, from the Malmesbury Correctional Facility in the Western Cape of South Africa, all 68 escapees were recaptured following a two-day manhunt, according to the country’s justice ministry and al Jazeera. The men were pre-trial detainees at the facility, which holds 451 prisoners and a staff of 20 about 40 miles from Cape Town. They “overpowered officials, took the keys and locked three officials in a cell and opened other cells before escaping through the main entrance and over the roof,” a ministry statement read. Nine staff members reported injuries sustained during the incident.
South Carolina: Eight former South Carolina Department of Corrections employees pleaded guilty in 2019 to federal charges of bringing contraband into state prisons. Former food-service worker Holly Mitchem and former horticultural specialist Robert Hill both admitted accepting bribes to smuggle contraband – including marijuana, K2, tobacco and cellphones – into Tyger River Correctional Institution (CI). Six former guards also admitted taking bribes in exchange for smuggling contraband into the prisons where they worked:
• Former Ridgeland CI guard Jamal Early – tobacco and the synthetic narcotic A-PVP
• Former Kershaw CI guard Frank Pridgeon – cocaine, marijuana, tobacco and cellphones
- Former Perry CI guard Miguel Williams – tobacco and liquor
- Former Lieber CI guard Ebonynisha Casby – a watch and jewelry
- Former Broad River CI guard Sharon Johnson Breeland – methamphetamine
• Former McCormick CI guard Catherine Prosser – marijuana and cellphones.
A former fellow guard of Prosser’s at the maximum-security prison, James Harvey, was still awaiting trial.
Virginia: After an August 2020 report by the Virginia Inspector General (IG) cited the state parole board for failing to follow procedures in releasing several convicts, chairwoman Tonya Chapman dismissed demands from GOP leaders in the General Assembly for the resignations of all board members. Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but the board may still grant it to those convicted before then, such as Vincent Martin, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Richmond cop in 1979. It was his release – approved before Chapman assumed the chair – that incensed Republican politicians, who called on the IG to investigate. Former board Chair Adrienne Bennet called for help from a Virginia Beach attorney and ally of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Jeffrey Breit, who accused the IG of overstepping its authority in examining the board. Four of its five members are Black, including its newest member appointed in 2019, Kemba Smith Pradia, who served time in federal prison for her involvement in a former boyfriend’s drug dealings that got him murdered before she was pardoned in 2000 by former President Bill Clinton.
West Virginia: A former West Virginia detainee who escaped a hospital transport van only to be recaptured, then passed away in August 2020, according to an obituary in the Morgantown Dominion Post. Craig Allen Martisko, 47, was an inmate at North Central Regional Jail in September 2019 when he escaped a van transporting him to Ruby Memorial Hospital and stole an ambulance, crashing into another ambulance and several cars before fleeing on foot to a nearby apartment complex, where he was caught attempting to break into a unit. A cause of death was not immediately available, nor were the charges on which Martisko was being held before his escape. He was arrested in September 2017 and charged with rape, but he was freed when a cellphone video showed he was elsewhere at the time of the incident and the victim then refused to testify.