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California Prison Officials Cleared After Prisoner Murders Two Sex Offenders

by David M. Reutter

In a letter to PLN on May 16, 2022, the California Office of the Inspector General (OIG) confirmed that no one was disciplined at the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) following a bizarre incident in January 2020, when a state prisoner murdered two fellow prisoners and confessed to the crimes in a letter to a local newspaper, saying he had also warned prison officials.

When Jonathan Watson was transferred to the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility in January 2020, his security classification was lowered from Level III to Level II, taking him from single-cell to dormitory housing. Watson, then 41, is serving a life term for the 2008 murder of UPS driver Garrett Benson, 27. He was displeased with the transfer, later telling the Mercury News that he left “quite a paper trail” of grievances to protest the “careless” move.

On January 15, 2020, just a week after his arrival, Watson said that he found a fellow prisoner watching PBS Kids on TV and became enraged because the man was a convicted child sex offender. As he later confessed, “I could not sleep having not done what every instinct told me I should’ve done right then and there.”

So the next day, Watson packed up his things and told a prison counselor that he needed a transfer back to Level III “before I really fuck one of these dudes up.” But the counselor “scoffed and dismissed me,” Watson said. Hours later, he used another prisoner’s cane to attack the TV-watcher, stomping on his head. The victim, David Bobb, 48, died en route to a hospital.

But Watson wasn’t finished. Using the same cane, he attacked another child sex offender in his housing unit. The second victim, Graham De Luis-Conti, 62, died at a local hospital three days later. Watson found a guard and confessed to the attacks. He also wrote out his confession in a letter to the newspaper on February 20, 2022, mentioning that he warned the prison counselor before assaulting his fellow prisoners.

Publication of the letter prompted an outpouring of support —– and money — from admirers of the vigilante justice that Watson meted out to the two men. In turn, that prompted CDCR to put a block on deposits into his commissary account.

OIG issued two reports on the incident. Overall, it found CDCR handled the situation in a “satisfactory” manner. As for the unnamed counselor that Watson said he warned, the agency ultimately decided there was insufficient evidence that the counselor knew of a risk and failed to act. See: OIG Case No. 20-0033252; and Case No. 20-0032396. 

Additional source: Mercury News

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