Alabama: A state Department of Corrections (DOC) guard was arrested on June 10, 2023, for allegedly smuggling drugs, including meth, to a prisoner at Kilby Correctional Facility, 1819 News reported. Charlie Townsend, 28, resigned from his position upon his arrest by the Law Enforcement Services Division. He was booked and released on $775,000 bail. Townsend allegedly brought in 88 grams of meth, 104 grams of fentanyl, 30 grams of marijuana and multiple Xanax pills, in addition to 208 grams of synthetic drugs. He planned to sell the stash for $1,500 but now faces charges of trafficking methamphetamine, use of position for personal gain, and second-degree promoting prison contraband. DOC’s Contraband Interdiction Program (CIP) was responsible for the arrest and the agency said more charges are possible.
Alaska: Kodiak Police Department Chief Tim Putney announced on May 11, 2023, that a guard at the city lockup was arrested and charged with third-degree sexual assault of a detainee, according to a report by Alaska Public Media. Fredrick Fangonilo flirted with his victim, at that time the only female detainee at the jail, before requesting they “hook up.” He released her to do cleaning duties but she ended up performing oral sex on the guard, who is now on administrative leave. The alleged sexual assault happened on March 29, 2022. The charges indicate that Fangonilo apologized to the woman after the incident and asked her to keep it between them. He is currently out on a $5,000 cash performance bond and pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing. The guard has worked at the Kodiak Jail for five years.
Arizona: A guard with the state DOC was arrested on May 25, 2023, for alleged “unlawful sexual misconduct” with a prisoner at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville, according to a report by KPHO-KTVK in Phoenix. Carlos Alberto Carranza, 21, snuck the woman into a prison control room where the sexual contact unfolded over the next eight minutes, security footage confirmed. The guard had had at least three other previous sexual contacts with the female prisoner. In the state of Arizona, it is illegal for peace officers and prison guards to engage in any act of a sexual nature with an individual who is in their custody.
Arkansas: KTLO in Mountain Home reported on May 14, 2023, that a state prisoner at DOC’s North Central Unit in Calico Rock was charged with felony aggravated assault for throwing urine at a guard. Richard Varnell, 46, is serving a 10-sentence for aggravated robbery, and his latest charge carries an enhancement of being a habitual offender. The urine-tossing incident occurred when the guard opened the door to pick up Varnell’s breakfast tray. A supervisor who was assisting the guard secured the tray and other cups to prevent Varnell from throwing more liquids. The guard was taken to the infirmary, decontaminated and sent to a hospital for tests.
California:An indictment unsealed in federal court for the Eastern District of California on April 13, 2023, charged a state prisoner and three accomplices with scheming to smuggle drugs by drone into Pleasant Valley State Prison. Michael Ray Acosta, 48, is charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana, as well as conspiracy to own and operate an unregistered drone and serving or attempting to serve as an airman without an airman’s certificate, plus using a cellphone in aid of racketeering. For the greater part of 2021 Acosta coordinated numerous drone deliveries of contraband into state lockups in Coalinga, Corcoran, Sacramento, Soledad and Susanville. An accomplice, Rosendo Ramirez, allegedly flew the drones and dropped the drugs into the prisons. Acosta and his associates on the inside are charged with picking up the packages and distributing the contents in the lockup. According to court documents, Acosta’s co-conspirators tried to avoid detection of the deliveries by launching the drones from hidden positions in fields around the prisons and making drops at night when the drones were less likely to be seen by prison staff. In addition to the drug deliveries the drones dropped cellphones, cellphone accessories, butane oil and other items.
California: KGET in Bakersfield reported that a Wasco State Prison guard was hit with felony charges on May 28, 2023, for showing up drunk to work and barricading himself in a guard control booth with a weapon in January 2023. [See: PLN, Mar. 2023, p.63.] Shawn William Wilder, 52, spent about ten hours holed up in the building before crisis teams from five other prisons talked him into surrendering himself and his firearm. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported no one was injured in the incident, though prisoner movement was restricted during the situation. Wilder has worked for the CDCR since 1996 but left in 2015 due to a “medical retirement.” He returned to work in July 2018. He is currently free on $50,000 bail and was due back in court in July 2023. In addition to the felony charges stemming from the stand-off, Wilder faces a misdemeanor charge for brandishing a gun.
California: Two guards in Fresno County went to court in June 2023 – one charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a woman, the other accused of ordering a hit on his girlfriend’s husband. On June 15, 2023, former guard Miguel Angel Corona, 34, was due for sentencing in the murder-for-hire plot, but a judge tossed his plea agreement, the Fresno Bee reported. Two weeks later, Jeremy Gerard Cuthbert, 36, appeared in Madera County Superior Court to face sex offense charges there, KFSN reported. He is on leave from the Fresno County Jail. It was unclear if that’s also where Corona worked, or if he worked for CDCR. Bradely Beau Costill, the hitman he hired to take out Jeremy Schmall in 2021, was set for sentencing on July 5, 2023. A preliminary hearing for the former guard was set for July 17, 2023.
California: The 24th time was the charm. AP News reported that on July 11, 2023, Leslie Van Houten, 73, was released from the California Institution for Women, after serving 53 years for participating with late cult leader Charles Manson in the brutal 1969 stabbing deaths of Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary. As recently as November 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) overruled a state parole panel decision and denied Van Houten release. [See: PLN, Mar. 2021, p.62.] But a state appeals court said she should be paroled, and Newsom said he would not fight the decision. Her release is the first for any accomplice of Manson, who died in prison in 2017. Van Houten had been rejected for parole 23 times before.
Canada: Calling his testimony “completely unbelievable,” a judge convicted a guard at Vanier Centre for Women on May 23, 2023, of sexually assaulting a prisoner, the Toronto Star reported. Dwayne Jason Thomas, 43, testified that the prisoner “lured him into the shower area, and began touching him sexually,” and Thomas “eventually allowed (the inmate) to masturbate him manually to ejaculation.” Ontario Court Justice Jennifer Campitelli found the guard’s account to be “inherently implausible.” Video surveillance footage from outside the shower supported the prisoner’s version of events, in which Thomas asked her for oral sex and when she said no, he “pulled down her pants, and inserted his penis into her vagina” for a 30-second penetration. The prisoner also said she collected Thomas’ semen from the floor with her pants afterwards, fearing no one would believe her story. After telling a cellmate and worrying that the story would spread, she decided to tell a guard she trusted with her semen-stained pants. The victim also said Thomas “did not force it” but that “she for some reason could not say no.” She explained that because Thomas had authority over her as a guard, she felt awkward. A spokesperson from the Ministry of the Solicitor General said Thomas was fired prior to the guilty findings.
Georgia: A guard and nurse at the Clayton County Jail were arrested on May 26, 2023, for allegedly smuggling contraband to detainees, WRDW in Augusta reported. Guard Tabitha Clifton and nurse Jessica Castellanos were booked into the lockup on charges of providing guns, drugs, or alcohol to prisoners. Clifton was charged with violating her oath of office and Castellanos with obstructing an officer. Just 24 hours earlier, another Clayton County guard was fired and arrested for placing a detainee into a high-risk housing unit where he was beaten and stabbed. Sean Hollinshead then allegedly failed to provide aid to the assaulted man, Sheriff Lavon Allen said. Hollinshead is charged with criminal negligence and violation of oath.
Georgia: WRDW in Augusta reported that a deputy of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) was arrested on June 5, 2023, on suspicion of smuggling contraband to detainees at the county lockup, the Charles B. Webster Detention Center. The county’s Criminal Investigative Division learned that Dep. Demondre Mahoney was involved in smuggling and determined there was probable cause to charge him with giving detainees articles without consent of the warden. Mahoney was also charged with violation of oath by a public officer. He began working for the RCSO in January 2021 and had been assigned to road patrol.
Georgia: On June 9, 2023, three weeks after allegedly making a drug drop at Lee Arrandale State Prison, the second of two suspects was arrested after a dramatic car chase that ended when she crashed into a pursuing prison guard’s vehicle and attempted to flee on foot, Now Habersham reported. Leticia Erika Perry, 28, of Summerville, was arrested by the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office as she fled from the scene of the crash, injured and bleeding, having been the subject of a three-week search. She was booked into the Habersham County jail and charged with aggravated assault, driving on a suspended license, failure to report an accident, criminal interference with government property, two counts each of illegal possession of a controlled substance and a seat belt violation. She is being held without bond after her preliminary court appearance on June 12, 2023.
Indiana: On June 12, 2023, police in Lake County arrested Terrance Craig, 40, after he admitted setting fire to the county lockup a week before. CBS News reported that cops also released a wrongly identified suspect in the arson, 26-year-old Ryan Andrews. Sheriff Oscar Martinez blamed the mix-up on “some similar physical characteristics” the two men shared, insisting that “the process worked as it should” – probably small comfort to Andrews, who spent three days in custody falsely accused of starting the blaze. Bizarrely, Craig blamed his arson on Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) and his two predecessors, Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence, saying he “wouldn’t have come out here if they wouldn’t have been [expletive] with me.”
Indiana: A Marion County Jail guard was arrested by co-workers for attempting to smuggle drugs into the lockup on June 9, 2023, the Indianapolis Star reported. Nijell Holmes, 25, who had worked at the jail for two years without incident, is now charged with two drug trafficking-related charges, two drug-dealing charges and two drug-possession charges. The charges are level 4 and 5 felonies that carry sentences up to six and 12 years each. Sheriff Kerry Forestal reacted to Holmes’ arrest by boasting, “Our new facility has thousands of high-definition cameras, advanced body scanners, and real-time inmate and staff tracking devices. When you pair that with our experienced staff, drug sniffing K9s, and incredible Investigations Unit, you simply won’t get away with bringing illicit substances into our jail. But that’s okay, we’ll find a cell for those who would try.”
Michigan:On May 15, 2023, the state DOC asked the public’s help in locating a prisoner mistakenly released two months earlier from an Ohio jail where he was awaiting trial on new charges, the Detroit News reported. Christopher Bibbs Jr., 21, was serving four to 10 years at the Thumb Correctional Facility for a carjacking when he was transported to the Warren County jail in Ohio to face charges for improper handling of a firearm in a vehicle, operating a vehicle while intoxicated and provided false information to law enforcement. After he was released in error, he walked away. He was still at large two months later in mid-July 2023. Bibbs has ink on his arm that reads, “Only the Strong Survive” and is believed to be in the Detroit area.
Mississippi: A former Jones County juvenile detention center guard convicted of killing an iconic rooster escaped jail time at her sentencing in Ocean Springs court on May 1, 2023, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported. Kendra Shaffer, 35, of Jones County, had been celebrating her birthday with friends when she allegedly scooped up the beloved rooster named Carl and disappeared into the darkness of a Mississippi spring night to commit murder most fowl. She was caught on video surveillance walking with friends and holding Carl, but no other evidence was presented proving that Shaffer had killed the popular Government Street tourist attraction. After investigators interviewed her at work and she was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin terminated Shaffer’s employment. Shaffer had worked for the sheriff’s office since December 2020 to support her four children. She pleaded not guilty to the charge but was sentenced to a 10-day suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, plus perform 150 hours of community service at an animal shelter. In addition, Judge Calvin Taylor sentenced Shaffer to six months probation. Shaffer vowed to appeal her conviction but to date has not filed an appeal nor paid the fine.
Mississippi: Supertalk Mississippi Media reported that two people were arrested on May 31 and June 1, 2023, for allegedly abetting the escape of two detainees from the same Hinds County lockup where four others who escaped in April 2023 were later recaptured or found dead. [See: PLN, June 2023, p.42.] Kayce Knight, 36, was apprehended in Jackson on June 1, 2023, and charged with accessory, as well as aiding and abetting in a detainee’s escape. Knight is currently being held at the jail. His arrest came one day after Michael Lynn Allen, 45, was taken into custody on similar charges. The two escapees they helped bust out on May 29, 2023, Joseph Spring and Michael Lewis, 31, both got out through an air duct. Spring had been at the Raymond Detention Center since November for violation of parole and burglary charges. Lewis had been booked on DUI and marijuana possession charges. Lewis was captured several hours after the escape and Spring was captured by deputies and U.S. Marshals after a quick “vehicle encounter” in west Jackson on June 17, 2023, according to Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones.
Missouri: Of seven detainees who escaped the Barry County Jail on June 1, 2023, only one remained at large a day later, KYTV in Springfield reported. Barry County Sheriff Danny Boyd said the men escaped after assaulting two guards and locking them in a cell. One of the detainees had told a guard he needed a blood pressure check before grabbing and choking the guard until he passed out. At the time of the escape only two guards were responsible for 60 detainees. The escapees were Mario Che-Tiul, Derson Pelep, Rolondo Saldivar, Axel Agans, Andrew Madewell, Jonathan Saucedo, and Harley Joe Wilkins. Three of them were caught 15 minutes after the escape and three more were apprehended the following morning. Che-Tiul remains at large after stealing street clothing from the property room on his way out. Sheriff Boyd said Che-Tiul might be going north and had been planning his escape for months. Che-Tiul was being held on charges of first-degree child molestation and incest. In June 2022 three detainees also escaped from jail by cutting through the ceiling. The county broke ground in February 2023 on a new jail and Sheriff Boyd said it should finished in summer 2024.
Missouri: A case manager at the Jackson County Detention Center was one of four people indicted on June 7, 2023, in an alleged smuggling scheme at the lockup, according to KMBC in Kansas City. Aaron D. Copes, 42, of Grandview, is accused of accepting money and sexual favors in exchange for helping to smuggle K2-laced papers into the jail. His co-conspirators – Deanna Clark, 32, Stephanie McDaniel, 31 and James Booker, 37 – are closely associated with an unnamed detainee also mentioned in the indictment. The conspiracy allegedly ran from March 2020 to October 2021. K2, or “spice,” is a synthetic cannabinoid whose composition is similar to, but not the same, as cannabis. This makes it legal in states where cannabis is not. According to American Addiction Centers, K2 affects the brain in similar ways but is far more potent than marijuana. K2 can have serious side effects such as seizures and convulsions, vomiting, an increased risk of having a stroke, elevated blood pressure, heart rhythm abnormalities and chest pain, as well as kidney failure, heart attack and sometimes death. [See: PLN, May 2023, p.13.]
Montana: The Helena Independent Record reported that a prisoner serving a life sentence at Montana State Prison (MSP) pleaded guilty on June 6, 2023, to an assault on guards that left one with brain injuries and fractured ribs. Augustus Standing Rock, 31, allegedly tried to corrupt a state prison guard who responded by issuing him an infraction. Standing Rock took his revenge by brutally assaulting the guard in January 2022. The lifer also bit, head-butted and punched the guards who came to the victim’s aid. In February 2022 the Attorney General’s Office charged Standing Rock with four counts of assault, and in June 2023 he accepted a deal from the Assistant Attorney General for another life sentence with a 40-year parole restriction. Montana DOC’s director told a legislative committee the day after the attack that the guard’s injuries were a result of staff shortages. Montana House Bill 817 passed this year to fund both needed capital projects at MSP and a contract with a private prison firm to relieve capacity issues.
Nebraska: An attack by three prisoners at the state Reception and Treatment Center (RTC) in Lincoln sent seven guards to the hospital on June 1, 2023, including two who responded when the rest were stabbed with homemade knives, KAKE in Wichita reported. The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NDCS) said the prisoners were intoxicated at the time of the assault. The stabbing occurred in one of the high security, maximum custody units at RTC. The guards’ injuries were serious but not life-threatening. The incident highlighted concerns about understaffing. Michael Chapman, president of the union which represents guards, said RTC requires 240 staffers to operate safely but there are only 200. He also said guards need stab vests to protect them from knife attacks. Criminal justice system reform bill LB 50, signed into law on June 6, 2023, will deliver those vests and much more according to an Omaha World-Herald community columnist. LB 50 “addresses prison overcrowding, reduces recidivism, strengthens communities, and economizes state resources for other critical needs — without endangering public safety,” wrote columnist and former GOP Sen. John McCollister.
New Mexico: The Roswell Daily Record reported that a Chaves County Detention Center guard with an apparent chip on her shoulder was fired and arrested on May 8, 2023, hours after jail surveillance video captured her removing the shackles from one detainee and opening the cell door of another who was then assaulted. Vereniz Cano Villalobos, 36, of Roswell, has maintained her innocence, claiming that she unlocked Steven Perez’s restraints so he could take a shower after having feces thrown at him. She also claimed that she had not unlocked the cell door, and if she had, it was done by accident. Perez, 31, repeatedly stabbed the other prisoner, Javier Gurrola, and when he fell through the open cell door with multiple stab wounds, beat him with a mop. Two days after the incident, a Chaves County judge released Villalobos on her own recognizance to await trial on one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, great bodily harm. For his part, Perez claimed the stabbing was self-defense. He told investigators that when Gurrola’s cell door opened he entered to confront him about the feces tossing. Perez alleged that Gurrola produced the weapon and tried to use it against him. Perez, serving a sentence as a sex offender, now faces four felony counts related to the vicious stabbing.
New Jersey: A state DOC guard at a sex offender treatment facility was indicted on July 7, 2023, for beating a resident who later suffered a stroke and died. New Jersey Monitor reported that Giuseppe Mandara was charged with second-degree official misconduct for allegedly assaulting Darrell Smith at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center on August 23, 2019. A wrongful death suit filed by Smith’s sister in federal court for the District of New Jersey accuses Mandara and eight other guards of “a gang-style assault” that left her brother with a brain injury that killed him. See: McNair v. N.J. Dep’t of Corr., USDC (D.N.J.), Case No. 2:21-cv-01291. Mandara was the only guard indicted. The charge carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, but if convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $150,000.
New Jersey: A former guard who snuck drugs in potato chip bags into the Monmouth County Jail got five years in prison on May 27, 2023, the Asbury Park Press reported. Bryant Mack, 55, had 18 years under his belt as a guard, but he will never again hold public employment in the state. The beginning of the end for Mack came on September 4, 2021, when jail officials found synthetic marijuana and other contraband in the cell of two prisoners. In the ensuing investigation, the Special Investigations Division discovered that Mack would conceal the contraband in potato chip bags and smuggle it to a prison accomplice, who would then distribute the illegal goods among the prisoner population. Mack pleaded guilty in November 2022 to second-degree conspiracy to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. [See PLN, Jan. 1, 2023, p. 63.] Before being caught, Mack earned an annual salary of $119,136.
New York: A former Rikers Island guard was indicted on June 22, 2023, for allegedly taking a $2,500 bribe to smuggle an iPhone to a detainee, the Yonkers Times reported. Also indicted were the detainee and a civilian. The guard, Bennie Green, 36, was indicted on charges of third-degree Bribe Receiving, first-degree Promoting Prison Contraband, second-degree Promoting Criminal Contraband and Official Misconduct. Green and the civilian woman will appear again in court on September 14, 2023. The investigation revealed that the detainee had instructed the civilian to buy him an iPhone and arranged the delivery via several calls made in summer 2021. Green then called that cellphone multiple times on August 4, 2021, and the next day surveillance video showed the guard entering the detainee’s cell in the Anna M. Koss Center. A partner of the detainee finalized the scheme by sending Green three Zelle payments totaling $2,500.
New York: On May 3, 2023, Rikers Island guards nabbed the second attorney in two months who was allegedly trying to smuggle drugs into the jail, the New York Post reported. The Legal Aid Society says Tatyana King is a law school graduate working in its criminal appeals bureau. The aspiring attorney was arrested while trying to smuggle weed to detainee Shyanne Patterson, who is accused of attempted murder. A drug-sniffing dog tipped off guards, who then searched King’s belongings and found bags of marijuana and tobacco. King was not working on Patterson’s case at the time. She previously had tried to fool guards in April 2023 by signing in as a staff lawyer for Legal Aid to visit detainees. The Legal Aid Society responded to King’s arrest by saying she had their “unwavering support” but did not say why she was at Rikers or whether she is a staff lawyer now. In March 2023 another smuggling scheme was uncovered when DOC guards caught attorney Christopher Hoyt trying to introduce fentanyl-laced pot into a Queens jail. Hoyt at the time was representing dominatrix Viktoria Nasyrova.
New York: An Oneida County Jail guard was suspended and arrested on May 30, 2023, after a review of jail surveillance video revealed he never made rounds that he logged. Jacob Mayo, 31, allegedly falsified tour logs saying that he had performed prisoner supervision tours but never made those tours in his assigned unit. Mayo is currently suspended without pay for his alleged dishonesty, which was discovered after an incident in the unit gave reason to review footage from the jail security cameras. Sheriff Rob Maciol reported that Mayo has been issued appearance tickets and an internal review is being conducted.
New York: A scheming former federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guard in New York pleaded guilty to disability fraud on June 7, 2023, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. Elizabeth Torres, 56, had been working as a guard for the BOP until 2006, when she lied about a debilitating knee injury that allegedly prevented her from working either while sitting or standing. In the claim forms Torres said she was significantly disabled, a dependent was living with her, and she was not receiving pay from any job nor was she volunteering in any capacity. Contrary to her false claims, Torres worked full-time as director of a drug and alcohol addiction program and was even caught once dancing in high-heeled boots outside the clinic. To hide her employment at the addiction clinic Torres had her pay directed through a third party, disguising her salary as rent. According to DOJ, Torres defrauded the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs of more than $4,000 a month over several years. She faces up to five years in prison when she appears before U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein on September 7, 2023.
Ohio: A former state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (DRC) guard who ran a smuggling operation supplying prisoners with contraband was sentenced to a year in prison on May 23, 2023, WKBN in Youngstown reported. Terry Terrigno, 30, smuggled suboxone, marijuana and tobacco to inmates at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center. An investigation revealed that Terrigno accepted bribes from inmates for contraband between February 2017 and July 2019. Investigators said he used a post office box to receive the drugs from associates of prisoners and then smuggled them inside, taking more than $8,650 in bribes through a mobile cash app. In addition to his prison sentence, he was ordered to serve two years of probation.
Ohio: A handcuffed detainee who somehow slipped from his medical boot and ran away from a hospital where he’d been taken from the Summit County Jail was recaptured just a day later on May 31, 2023, CBS News reported. Jason L. Conrad, 39, had jail officials fooled about the extent of his injury. As a guard was escorting Conrad to a medical appointment and removing him from the transport vehicle, the wily cocaine dealer escaped by removing his boot and sprinting across six lanes of traffic. The deputy tried to chase him, but he fell and couldn’t catch up, sustaining minor injuries to his hip and shoulder. Officers with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force apprehended Conrad the morning after his escape by watching him travel by bicycle then hide in a ravine when he realized foot patrol officers and an aviation unit were closing in. Conrad had been held in the county jail for felony drug possession and trafficking and weapons counts. He will now have an escape charge added to his rap sheet.
Oklahoma: On June 1, 2023, a former guard at James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena was sentenced to 13 months in prison for dabbling in the black market, after he admitted taking $5,000 in bribes to smuggle contraband into the lockup, The Oklahoman reported. Ty Craig, 25, smuggled cellphones, marijuana and methamphetamine into the medium-security prison from 2020 to 2021. Craig originally pled guilty to his charges on March 1, 2023, in Oklahoma City federal court. At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ordered Craig to turn over the cash bribes and serve two years of probation after release. Trafficking in contraband cellphones – crucial to allow prisoners to conduct criminal operations from inside the prison – resulted in more than 48,500 illegal cellphones confiscated by the state DOC from 2011 to 2019.
Oklahoma: A former guard with a bad temper who assaulted a detainee at the Grady County Jail was sentenced on June 6, 2023, to four years on probation, 30 days of weekend incarceration and 104 hours of community service, The Oklahoman reported. Johnnie K. Drewery, 29, a former sergeant at the jail, was the recipient of a spit ball launched from a detainee he had recently placed in a holding cell. Drewery then ordered the door reopened and struck and kneed the prisoner, fracturing one of his ribs. Drewery pleaded guilty to a felony civil rights violation in Oklahoma City federal court on January 19, 2022, which led to his eventual June sentencing.
Tennessee: There’s no “James Earl Ray Whiskey” for sale, but the Nashville Tennessean reported on May 11, 2023, that tours are now being offered at a distillery operating in the former state prison where Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassin was held. Bushy Mountain State Penitentiary was once a major employer in the small town of Petros – population under 500. The prison closed in 2009 when the state said it was inhumane to house people there, leaving townspeople struggling to make a living. Many knew it as the prison where James Earl Ray had been held, but for Canaan Brock it had more meaning. Years before the prison was built his mother’s family owned the land. Now Brock works at the prison as a master distiller, his family’s first legal moonshiner, he notes wryly.
Utah: A prisoner released from Purgatory Correctional Center who is accused of stealing a guard’s uniform and car on his way out of the Washington County lockup was back there in a cell on May 23, 2023, KSL in Salt Lake City reported. Ryan Bradley Thompson, 35, told police he was hearing voices directing him to re-enter the prison and pretend to be a cop. Thompson had been booked and charged with intoxication and littering just the day before. When a deputy arrived at his house, Thompson claimed he was someone else. The arresting deputy wrote in the affidavit that “it is clear Ryan is not in his correct state of mind, and in his own words, this is leading him to commit these crimes.” Another thing that might be unclear to the casual observer is just exactly how Thompson walked through the secure portion of the building and a restricted office area to a gym locker room, before walking out holding a county sheriff’s deputy uniform shirt. He then put the shirt on and took his jeans off, walking in his boxers to the front of the building, where he talked to a civilian staff member and walked around the parking lot checking door handles before choosing a pickup truck to drive home – all without anyone at the jail even asking what he was doing. Thompson was later charged with theft, burglary, providing false information to police and impersonating an officer.
Washington: A robbery suspect is accused of smuggling fentanyl that sickened seven other detainees at the Snohomish County Jail on May 19, 2023, KIRO in Seattle reported. In a “how-did-this-happen” quandy, jail officials couldn’t understand how seven detainees overdosed within 30 minutes of Justin Michael Sims’ arrival at the lockup. The 37-year-old was booked on third degree robbery charges yet managed to smuggle fentanyl powder on scraps of torn and folded paper hidden in a box of crackers. The pieces of paper had Sims’ name on them because they had been ripped from his court documents. Jail officials raced the detainees to the hospital after treating them with NARCAN. Other detainees later fingered Sims and his jail cell as the source of the fentanyl. Sims now faces multiple new charges for the contraband.
Wisconsin: CBS News reported that an off-duty guard at Minnesota’s Stillwater State Prison was fatally shot by a St. Croix County deputy responding to a domestic disturbance at the guard’s home on June 3, 2022. Tyler Abel, 42, had worked in manufacturing for 20 years before changing careers to law enforcement. He was first hired as a guard in April 2022. On the night he died, Abel’s wife called 911 and reported her husband was out of control and threatening to use his gun. St. Croix County and New Richmond cops arrived and found Abel’s wife outside the house where her husband and kids were still inside. Cops then saw a man with a hunting rifle at a window and tried to reason with him. But Abel threatened them and walked outside to confront them. At that point the responding officers fired and killed Abel. The individuals involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending results of an investigation and review. The Minnesota DOC called the guard’s death “tragic and troubling.”
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