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News in Brief

Alabama: Within 48-hours of booking into the Morgan County Jail on August 29, 2023, Miles Rea Batson, 39, had two second-degree assault charges added to his public intoxication charge as well as another for disarming a law enforcement agent. WHNT in Huntsville reported that during booking on the drunkenness charge, Batson tried to grab the genitals of the booking officer. Failing at that, he then bit the policeman on the thumb so hard that he broke skin. Two days later, as Batson was being fingerprinted, he disarmed an officer of his Taser and began battling with staff. The sheriff’s department said he was “quickly subdued” and returned to his cell.

Alabama: The Equal Justice Initiative reported that a prison guard fired by the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) for the fatal beating of a prisoner won an appeal to the state Personnel Board on August 30, 2023, when an administrative law judge ordered him reinstated with back pay. Capt. Timothy McCorvey was a senior guard supervisor at Ventress Correctional Facility on January 21, 2023, when surveillance video captured him dragging prisoner Brandon Crosby by his collar from his cell, punching him and locking him in handcuffs, before lifting him and snapping his head on the floor. Crosby, 36, died at a hospital later that day. DOC terminated McCorvey on April 4, 2023, after two separate investigations concluded that he violated policy by striking Crosby with a closed fist when the prisoner “did not pose a threat to McCorvey and never engaged in active resistance.” No criminal charges have been filed against McCorvey.

Arizona: A state prison guard was arrested on September 26, 2023, and charged with sexually assaulting a prisoner at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville. As reported by KPNX in Mesa, the unnamed prisoner lodged the accusations four days after the alleged incident with guard Jose Mario Figueroa, 20, on September 22, 2023. The state DOC initiated an investigation, and the victim provided evidence. Figueroa eventually admitted to unlawful sexual conduct with the prisoner and was booked into jail. His current employment status with DOC was unclear.

Arkansas: A state prison guard was fired and arrested on October 13, 2023, along with a former prisoner who accompanied her at a Tucker Unit checkpoint, where a search found they were both armed. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported the pair was also carrying at least $10,400 in cash. DOC fired the guard, Calisha Campbell, charging her with bringing unauthorized firearms onto the prison grounds. Former prisoner Marcus Pugh was charged with unauthorized possession of a firearm. A DOC Facebook post said the handgun found on Pugh had been illegally altered to fire fully automatically and was loaded with a 32-round clip. It also said the gun in Campbell’s purse was originally thought to be stolen, but it turned out to be her own. “[S]he still brought an unauthorized firearm onto [DOC] property, which you cannot do,” the post continued. “Her termination stands.” The two were jailed, though DOC did not say where.

California: KTLA in Los Angeles reported that an off-duty guard at Riverside County’s Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility was discovered carrying 44 pounds of illegal drugs during a traffic stop on September 17, 2023. The county Sheriff’s Department said Deputy Jorge Oceguera-Rocha, 25, who had been employed since 2019, was allowed to resign rather than being terminated. His bail was set at $1 million, much higher than the standard amount for simple possession, because of the enormous quantity of drugs he was busted with.

California: On September 28, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the indictment of a former state prison guard on two counts of taking bribes to smuggle cellphones into California Medical Facility in Vacaville. According to KOVR in Sacramento, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) said Stephen Joseph Crittenden, 43, was being held at Sacramento County Jail on bribery charges related to the alleged smuggling, which occurred while he was on the job in 2021 and 2022. He is no longer employed by CDCR. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Canada: Surveillance video played at the Manitoba trial of prison guard Robert Jeffrey Morden on September 27, 2023, captured the last words of a Headingley Correctional Centre prisoner he is accused of killing: “I can’t breathe.” According to CBC News, the footage showed the prisoner, William Ahmo, 45, swinging a broom at a mob of about a dozen guards before he was shot with chemical projectiles and taken down during the February 2021 altercation. He died in a hospital a week later. Morden is charged with criminal negligence in his killing.

Ecuador: PBS News reported that a suspect in the assassination of a presidential candidate was killed inside a Quito prison on October 7, 2023. The day before “Jose M.” was murdered, six other suspects in the August 2023 slaying of Fernando Villavicencio, 59, were killed in a separate lockup in Guayaquil. Then-Pres. Guillermo Lasso declared a shake-up of security forces, removing the prison director and replacing the head of the national police. Six remaining suspects in Villavicencio’s assassination were also relocated to an unidentified facility. A week later, Daniel Noboa, 35, won a runoff election for the presidency on October 15, 2023.

Florida: On September 15, 2023, a cause was reported for the November 2022 death of condemned state prisoner Stephen Todd Booker, 69. According to the Tampa Bay Times, he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose. Convicted of the 1977 rape and murder of 94-year-old Lorine “Winnie” Demoss Harman, Booker was one of Florida’s longest-serving prisoners. He also became an accomplished poet behind bars, publishing his work in respected literary journals like the Kenyon Review. The prisoner signed over royalties from his first book to his victim’s great niece, Page Zyromski, who insisted that Harman “would join us, I’m sure, in opposing the execution.” Booker told The New York Times, “I won’t be able to write fast enough, long enough, voluminously enough to make up for the stuff I’ve done.” Zyromski, now 80, paid for Booker’s January 2023 funeral at an Indianapolis church, Today’s Catholic reported.

Florida: On September 12, 2023, a Palm Beach County jury acquitted a guard charged with smuggling drugs to detainees at the county lockup, the Palm Beach Post reported. Jose Gutierrez, 38, was charged in April 2021 with former fellow guards Karl G. Kirkland, 58, and Samuel Pierre, 30, as PLN reported. [See: PLN, Apr. 2022, p.62.]Kirkland and Pierre resigned and pleaded guilty in October 2023. Pierre entered a pretrial intervention program. Kirkland got 100 hours of community service plus two years of probation, with credit for 16 days spent in jail after arrest. The Sheriff’s Office moved Gutierrez from unpaid to paid leave.

Georgia: Between November 2022 and July 2023, four Camden County Detention Center guards were accused of crimes against detainees and a fifth was disciplined—though only lightly. WJXT in nearby Jacksonville reported that Sgt. Joshua Beauchamp, 37, was charged on July 24, 2023, with aggravated assault, giving false statements and violation of oath of public office for allegedly shoving an unnamed detainee into a door and knocking him unconscious three weeks earlier. On May 15, 2023, a grand jury indicted three other former guards, after surveillance video captured their beatdown of North Carolina motorist Jarett Hobbs, 41. His drug possession charges were dropped in February 2023. The three guards—Ryan Biegel, 24, Braxton Massey, 21, and Mason Garrick, 23—were fired after the November 2022 incident, as PLN reported. [See: PLN,Dec. 2022, p.63.] PLN also reported that a fifth jail guard identified as “J. Anderson” received a one-day suspension in April 2023 for beating Zyaire Ratliff, a Muslim detainee fasting for Ramadan the month before. [See: PLN,June 2023, p.63.]

Georgia: CNN reported that DOC guard Robert Clark, 42, was killed when prisoner Layton Lester attacked him from behind with a homemade weapon at Smith State Prison on October 1, 2023. Lester was one of two prisoners Clark was escorting from the dining hall at the time. The other, Marko Willingham, tried to help Clark, but he was also injured by Lester and hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

Illinois:DOJ announced that former Pinckneyville Correctional Center guard Christian L. Pyles, 25, pleaded guilty to federal charges on October 13, 2023, for beating an unnamed prisoner who was restrained in leg irons and then lying about it on his official reports. As PLN reported, Pyles was charged in the April 2022 incident along with fellow guards Mark C. Maxwell, 52, and Cord Williams, 35, the latter of whom pleaded guilty to similar charges in July 2023. [See: PLN, Sep. 2023, p.63.] Williams pleaded guilty on November 9, 2023, to failing to intervene to stop the other two guards in their assault on the prisoner.

Illinois: On October 25, 2023, Walter Gary, 37, a guard at the St. Clair County Jail, was placed on unpaid administrative leave after a five-year-old shot himself in the hand with a gun belonging to Gary that the child found in his toy box at home in nearby Missouri. KMOV in St. Louis reported that Gary was charged with two counts of child endangerment and placed on unpaid leave by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department. His bond was set at $75,000 cash.

Indiana: A former guard with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was sentenced on October 31, 2023, for sneaking contraband into the U.S. Penitentiary (USP) in Terre Haute. Local station WTHI reported that Shauna Boatwright, 36, will serve one year and a day in prison for taking five Cash App payments from a prisoner totaling $9,600 in exchange for delivering tobacco products into the prison from September 30 to October 27, 2021. The nine-year BOP veteran was also ordered to serve two years of post-release supervision and pay a $500 fine.

Kentucky: A state DOC guard was sentenced for having sex with a prisoner on November 11, 2023, three days after a pair of BOP guards were convicted of assaulting federal prisoners at USP Big Sandy. Those two, Samuel Patrick, 41, and Clinton Pauley, 42, assaulted three prisoners in March and April 2021, earning prison terms of 36 and 40 months, respectively, the Lexington Herald Ledger reported. The former state prison guard, Tyler Hinds, 30, will serve a year in prison on a third-degree rape and sodomy conviction for having sex with a prisoner in February and March 2021, according to the Elizabethtown News Enterprise. He must also serve five years of post-release supervision and register as a sex offender for 20 years. The two former BOP guards will each serve one year of post-release supervision.

Louisiana: Two Louisiana jail guards were accused of trafficking contraband in September and October 2023. KALB in Alexandria reported that Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office (RPSO) Deputy Krystal Morris Peters, 34, was arrested on September 21 and charged with giving a cellphone to detainee Kenneth Pattum, 33, with whom she is also accused of having a romantic affair. She was released on $1,500 bond and fired from RPSO. Then on October 1, 2023, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Desteney Wells, 22, was no longer working at the Orleans Parish Jail after she was charged with taking a $300 Cash App payment from an unnamed detainee to deliver a package that turned out to contain 26 Suboxone strips. Her bail was set at $4,500.

Maine: On September 22, 2023, Penobscot County Jail guard Robert Ireland, 48, was fired and arrested on two counts of gross sexual assault and another of trafficking tobacco in an adult correctional facility for allegedly coercing sex from detainees with smuggled vaping devices. WABI in Bangor reported that an investigation was begun the week before when a detainee reported Ireland was smuggling contraband into the lockup. The guard, who was hired in July 2023, was fired within 12 hours. He was being held on $5,000 bail in Piscataquis County Jail.

Michigan: Agents with the Michigan State Police Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team had been trying to figure out for a year how drugs were getting into the St. Louis Correctional Facility when they finally arrested the mastermind on August 7, 2023, taking a 20-year veteran DOC guard into custody. WJRT in Flint reported that Kernef Jackson, 61, was charged with 13 offenses, including possession and intent to deliver fentanyl and other controlled substances. He was also charged with maintaining a “drug house” in his vehicle. Two accomplices were also charged, an unnamed 43-year-old prisoner and another unnamed woman who was not incarcerated. Jackson was released on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond.

Mississippi: Brian Jenkins, 39, a former BOP guard at Yazoo City Federal Corrections Complex, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison on October 25, 2023, according to a DOJ press release. He was arrested on bribery charges on May 31, 2023, and pleaded guilty to taking over $4,000 from prisoners to smuggle contraband from August 2017 to June 2018.

Mississippi: Three former DOC officials were sentenced on October 25, 2023, for beating a defenseless state prisoner over four years earlier. WXXV in Gulfport reported that former guards Jessica Hill and Latoya Richardson will spend 37 months in federal prison, followed by two years of supervised release, for the July 2019 assault at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. The unnamed prisoner was curled in a fetal position and posing no threat at all when Hill bashed her with a pepper-spray cannister and punched her in the head. Richardson joined in and kicked the prisoner four times in the head and body. Case manager Nicole Moore also jumped into the fray and kicked the prisoner in the back of the head. She was sentenced to 24 months in prison and two years of supervised release. The three former officials were also fined $1,500 each.

Missouri: On October 5, 2023, former DOC guard Sgt. Carl Hart, 37, was sentenced to seven years in prison for an assault on a prisoner at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre in October 2021—and for possessing child pornography that was found during the investigation. KSDK in St. Louis reported that Hart admitted getting into an argument with a prisoner and ordering him back to his cell. When the prisoner failed to comply, two other guards pepper-sprayed him. Afterward, while the prisoner was washing off the spray in the shower, Hart beat him—and then got him out of the shower and onto the ground in handcuffs before beating him again. Meanwhile, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children got a tip that Hart had child pornography. Investigators from the Missouri State Highway Patrol found it in his Dropbox account as well as on one of his phones. On top of that, Hart was also named in a lawsuit stemming from a separate September 2021 incident as one of several guards accused of pepper-spraying Reginald Clemons and eight other Muslim prisoners while they were praying. See: Clemmons v. Precythe, USDC (E.D. Mo.), Case No. 4:22-cv-00158.

Montana: Three days before his scheduled release from a three-year state prison term on October 23, 2023, Landon John Gwynn, 40, was handed a new life sentence for attacking a DOC guard in 2021. According to the Helena Independent Record, the attack left the guard with a traumatic brain injury. During his trial, Gwynn blamed the attack on “extreme emotions or mental disturbance” he was suffering as a result of a water crisis at Crossroads Correctional Center that had left the lockup without operating toilets. Gwynn agreed in September 2023 to plead guilty to aggravated assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. However, a state law sentencing enhancement for charges incurred while in prison overrode that with a mandated sentence “to death or life imprisonment.”

Nebraska: A Madison County Jail detainee with admitted drug and anger problems got a two-year prison sentence on October 13, 2023, for assaulting a guard at the jail. The Norfolk Daily News reported that Zachary Price, 37, was being held on a probation violation two months earlier when guards moved him for a rules violation he denied making, and he struck the unnamed guard repeatedly before other guards took him to the ground. “I shouldn’t have done that; he’s one of the nicest guards here,” Price told his sentencing judge, adding that “all the guards would tell you that that’s not me.” But the judge likely wasn’t impressed, having sentenced Price to 60 days for contempt over an obscenity-laced outburst at a hearing on separate charges in August 2023, when the judge denied the detainee’s request for reduced bail.

New Jersey: Love makes people do crazy things, including former Monmouth County Jail guard Latonya C. Johnson, 52. For letting her affections get the better of her judgment, Johnson reached a plea agreement on October 24, 2023, on charges she smuggled a cellphone into the lockup “in order to be able to communicate … more frequently” with an unnamed detainee, the Asbury Park Press reported. Under the deal, Johnson agreed to accept a three-year prison term at her sentencing in January 2024 and forfeit future public employment in New Jersey.

New Mexico: On September 27, 2023, former Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center guard Grant Haneckow, 19, was busted smuggling 40 Suboxone strips into the lockup, KOB in Albuquerque reported. He was arrested two days later. The union representing guards at the jail, the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees (AFSCME), would provide an attorney in civil matters; however, AFSCME Council 18 Local 2499 Pres. Joseph Trujeque said the union would not likely do so for Haneckow, since his allegations involve crimes.

New York: According to WTEN in Albany, Ulster County Jail guard Shawn Teuber, 25, was arrested on September 18, 2023, on charges of first-degree promoting prison contraband and official misconduct. An investigation started the month before after a tip that a Sheriff’s Office employee was sneaking a cellphone into the lockup for prisoners to use. Investigators then determined that Teuber was allowing the phone to be used by Christopher Power, 36. Power remains jailed on unrelated charges, to which will be added new counts for use of the contraband phone. Teuber was given an appearance ticket and released. His employment status was described as probationary; his current employment status is unclear.

New York: Rikers Island jail guard James Internicola had a great gig—a salary of $92,000 that swelled to $390,000 with overtime. Except the hours were falsified. According to the New York Post, FBI investigators found he regularly forged his timesheet by four hours every day, often not even showing up for work but heading instead to the Jersey shore or a vacation in Aruba. When confronted with this blatant fraud, the 27-year veteran of the New York City DOC accused his supervisor of forging his signature. But according to court documents, the actual times that Internicola arrived at work and left were validated with license-plate reader timestamps, cellphone and travel records and E-Z Pass toll data. Internicola has since resigned.

Oklahoma: To the 20-year sentence he was serving for first-degree burglary, robbery and more at Great Plains Correctional Center, Creighton Whitebuffalo, 30, now faces an additional three years if convicted of a sexual battery charge he received for inappropriately touching an unnamed guard. KSWO in Lawton reported that Whitebuffalo told her it was “just an accident.”

Ohio: A former state prison guard at Northeast Reintegration Center in Cleveland was found guilty of eight counts of sexual battery on September 28, 2023, for coercing sex from two unnamed prisoners, aged 35 and 39, between April and June 2021. Ohio Advance Publications reported that one of the prisoners spent a month in solitary confinement after reporting the abuse. Brandon Kohler, 34, was then sentenced to a year in prison on October 23, 2023, and ordered to register as a Tier 3 sex offender every 90 days for life. But he was released on bond while he appeals his conviction. Cried his wife to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John D. Sutula, “This is not him. He would not hurt a fly on the wall.”

Pennsylvania: After finding trace amounts of the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease in the sink of a Lancaster County Prison cell on August 21, 2023, officials decided to disinfect the prison’s water system and some cells. LNP Media Group reported that the investigation was sparked when a detainee recently transferred from the prison tested positive for the disease, which is caused by a bacterium that lives in water—so if it manages to reach plumbing, it poses an enormous health risk. Warden Cheryl Steberger said no other detainees or staffers had shown symptoms, but she emphasized the need to replace the facility, parts of which date to 1850.

Pennsylvania: The biggest spectacle at the West Mifflin High School football game on October 6, 2023, was just off the field when Brian Englert, 48, president of the guards’ union at Allegheny County Jail, was charged with trespassing, harassment and impersonating a public servant. According to the PittsburghPost Gazette, Englert tried to park in what an attendant warned was a “preferred parking” space, flashing a badge and claiming to be law enforcement. Although Englert does work in corrections, his title does not grant law enforcement powers. During halftime, he then forced his way into an “invitation-only hospitality room” strictly for school officials and swiped two bottles of water. Told that the water was for football players, Englert shouted a vague threat that he had “something waiting” for them. He assured police that he was allowed into the hospitality room because his wife is a West Mifflin school director.

South Dakota: According to the Mitchell Republic, a grand jury indicted a pair of South Dakota State Penitentiary prisoners for attempted murder on September 26, 2023, after they allegedly attacked a guard the previous month. Surveillance video from August 24, 2023, captured Kyle Jones, 30, and Lester Monroe, 48, as they approached the guard and restrained him, launching an attack with their fists before other guards intervened. The unnamed guard was hospitalized for treatment. If convicted, the prisoners face an additional prison term up to 50 years.

Tennessee: The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that former state prison guard Joseph Lino Padilla, 43, was sentenced to 78 months in prison on September 13, 2023, for his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. He was also ordered to serve 24 months of supervised release and pay $2,000 in restitution.During the riot, Padilla called responding police officers “traitors” and “oath breakers” for “following unconstitutional orders,” even throwing a flagpole at one officer’s head. He messaged a relative, “I’ve been beaten. Sprayed and [tased]. Resting before I go in for more,” later adding he was “proud of what I did.” At sentencing, however, Padilla expressed remorse. A GiveSendGo page created by his wife, Rebekah, claims she and their three sons were evicted and have lived with her mother since shortly after his February 2021 arrest. But she admitted in a post-sentencing update that “[t]he judge was fair.”

Tennessee: When a Hamilton County couple suspected they heard a burglar on October 10, 2023, they called cops—who then found a county jail guard nearby showing signs he had been huffing paint. WTVC in Chattanooga reported that Cpl. James Eric Clift, 35, had paint on his face and fingers and a can of spray paint in his hands. Meanwhile, another neighbor called the couple to say a weird man showed up at their door muttering about a taxi company. After conducting a field sobriety test, deputies arrested Clift on charges of public intoxication and inhaling, selling, or possessing glue for unlawful purposes. The county Sheriff’s Office said he would be on paid leave for 14 days, and on administrative leave with no pay after that. In a tweet from the previous February, Clift was congratulated by the department as one of “our newly promoted personnel!”

Texas: A former Wichita County Jail detainee who took a swing at a guard when told to put away his jail-issued tablet got his punishment on October 16, 2023: Four years in state prison. KFDX/KJTL in Wichita Falls reported that Robert Butler will serve the sentence for assault of a public official concurrently with a four-year term for burglary of a habitation. He had been jailed on the latter charge in March 2023 when the unnamed guard told Butler to put away the tablet. Butler then became angry and coughed in the guard’s face, taking a swing when the guard moved to cover his face and striking him under the eye.

United Kingdom: Hollesley Bay prison in Woodbridge had a very frantic day on October 21, 2023, BBC News reported.Prisoner Aidan McGuiness, 44, who was serving three years for fraud, theft, and possession of a controlled substance, escaped around 9:20 a.m. Just before 7:00 p.m., prisoners Joshua Lewis Terry, 29, and Levi Mitchell, 39, also escaped. Terry was serving a 28-month sentence for theft, threatening someone with a knife and a form of intimidation called affray, similar to breach of peace. Mitchell was locked up for several burglary offenses. He was recaptured in Harlow on November 10, 2023, McGuiness in Doncaster on November 1, 2023, and Terry in Norwich on October 24, 2023. About a month earlier, on September 28, 2023, prisoner Andrew Smith escaped; he was doing 18 years for causing grievous bodily harm. Just before that, on September 26, 2023, prisoner Roger Simmons failed to return from temporary home leave. He was serving 17 years for burglary. He and Smith are still on the lam.

Washington: On October 23, 2023, former Walla Walla State Penitentiary guard Leticia Rodriguez, 44, was sentenced to five years in federal prison and five years of supervised release, after pleading guilty in a conspiracy to traffic fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine. KAYU in Spokane reported that Rodriguez was moonlighting as a courier for drug traffickers fronted by a firm called Affordable Landscaping when investigators discovered she was muling drugs and cash between Washington, Arizona, and California. Also indicted were Joel Chavez-Duran, Jose Mendoza-Ruelas and Oscar Chavez-Garcia, in whose Kennewick home the business was based,

Washington: On October 20, 2023, the Tri-City Herald reported that Randy Joe Harris, 55, a 24-year veteran guard at the state’s Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, shot and killed himself just before he was to be sentenced for possessing child pornography. Harris pleaded guilty in June 2023 to grooming a 15-year-old girl whom he convinced to exchange sexually explicit selfies. Frightened he’d be targeted in prison because of his job, he asked to do his time in a prison out-of-state. But his sentencing was postponed when U.S. Judge Mary Dimke learned that Harris had suffered a medical emergency. At that time, the victim’s father was about to address the court, but he told the judge that he wanted Harris to hear him. An hour later, the U.S. Marshal’s Service reported that Harris, who was being electronically monitored, had killed himself at home.  

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