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News in Brief

Alabama: Three jail guards in the Yellowhammer State were hit with drug smuggling charges in August 2023 and another the month after. WAFF in Huntsville reported that Morgan County Jail guard Bobby Simmons, 19, was arrested on August 3, 2023, when he was charged with promoting prison contraband for allegedly taking a $100 bribe to give a detainee a vape pen; he was released on $2,500 bond. On August 29, 2023, the Montgomery Advertiser said that U.S. Marshals arrested Montgomery County Jail guard Mario Avery, 43, after a federal grand jury indicted him for allegedly taking a $1,100 bribe to smuggle drugs in November 2022 to a federal detainee at the lockup identified as “P.D.” Two days later, on August 31, 2023, Mobile Metro Jail (MMJ) guard Jessica Monique Odom, 22, was arrested on suspicion of trafficking fentanyl to detainees, according to local station WPMI. A second MMJ guard, Kimberly A. Henderson, 32, was also arrested and charged with promoting prison contraband on September 13, 2023, the Birmingham News reported. All four guards have been fired.

Alaska: Pillar Catholic reported on June 13, 2023, that Alaska’s Department of Corrections (DOC) had banned communion wine – but only a day later the decision was reversed. A DOC interim policy memo dated July 6, 2023, declared that “[n]o altar wine or other alcoholic beverages will be used by anyone who is involved with any activity.” But after news reports of the change, a DOC spokesman said on July 14, 2023, that the agency “repealed the memo in question” due to “the unintended issue generated” by its release. DOC then reiterated its commitment “to honor the religious beliefs of all those in our care and custody.”

Arkansas: On September 19, 2023, Christopher Michael Alsup, 36, a former guard with the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at the Federal Correctional Complex in Forrest City, was arraigned on four counts of attempted production of child pornography as well as 14 counts of receipt or distribution of child pornography. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Alsup, who was arrested on May 9, 2023, was also charged with eight counts of rape involving a minor under the age of 14. He pleaded not guilty and was being held at the White County Jail pending a trial set for October 30, 2023. Alsup is no longer employed by BOP.

California: As reported by the Palm Springs Desert Sun, Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Christian Heidecker, 32, was arrested on September 15, 2023, on charges he attempted to extort sex from a half-dozen women he supervised on home detention. Heidecker was put on administrative leave. Denisse Gastelum, an attorney for one of the alleged victims, told KNBC in Los Angeles that her client was made to sign “a settlement release agreement in the exchange for $1,000 so that she kept her mouth shut.” The county’s communications director replied that describing “pre-litigation settlements as an effort to buy silence is a clear mischaracterization.”

Canada: On September 18, 2023, a dentist pleaded guilty to assault charges for letting a prison guard extract a detainee’s tooth during an October 2020 appointment. CBC News reported that Dr. Louis Bourget sedated the unnamed detainee at his Gander Family Dental Clinic and then allowed an escorting guard from Bishop’s Falls Correctional Centre, Ron McDonald, to extract one of his teeth, while fellow guard Roy Goodyear recorded the incident on cellphone video he later uploaded to social media. McDonald also pleaded guilty to similar charges. Those against Goodyear were dropped. Sentencing for Bourget and McDonald is set for February 2024.                           

Connecticut: CT Insider reported that on August 6, 2023, a state prison guard was taken into custody for sending a “suspicious email” to the warden of MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution and the state attorney general’s office. No other details were available about the letter sent by Tweh Torbor, 55, but state police said he admitted sending the message when he was arrested on second-degree harassment charges. He was released on $5,000 bond.

Florida: WEAR in Pensacola reported on August 9, 2023, that state prisoner Osmany Aleman, 27, had 20 years added to the nine-year sentence he is currently serving for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl, after he attacked a guard with a “homemade weapon” at Blackwater River Correctional Facility in March 2022. He was given 20 years for aggravated battery and 15 years concurrent for possession of a contraband weapon in a state correctional facility.

Florida: Arriving at a Coral Springs police station in the early morning hours of August 15, 2023, Fort Lauderdale Police Department (FLPD) Detention Officer Chase Harder, 21, confessed to fatally shooting his girlfriend, Dayanna Hurtado, 24 – while her 3-year-old daughter watched. WSVN in Miami reported that the guard at the city’s Main Jail was spotted carrying the child over his shoulder to his car before driving the girl to her father’s home in neighboring Palm Beach County. He then drove back to the Broward County suburb and turned himself in. Hurtado had contacted police on July 30, 2023, to complain that Harder sent text messages threatening to kill her. Harder was placed on administrative leave without pay and charged with one count of premeditated murder and one count of written threats to kill or inflict bodily injury, FLPD said.

Georgia: A detainee and a guard at two Georgia jails were charged in separate July 2023 assaults. WDUN in Gainesville reported that Habersham County Jail guard Juan Balderas was knocked unconscious by detainee Mark E. Roberts on July 6, 2023. Another guard found Roberts “in a frantic state, apologizing repeatedly,” the office of Sheriff Joey Terrell said. Roberts was charged with aggravated battery and felony obstruction. Balderas missed a week of work to recuperate. Five days later, on July 11, 2023, Monroe County Jail guard Corben J. Becelia, 25, let his temper get the best of him, Sheriff Brad Freeman said, when the guard punched detainee Tyree Crosland in the head. According to the Monroe County Reporter, Becelia then turned himself in to face charges of battery and violating his oath of office.

Georgia: According to WAGA in Atlanta, the Towns County Detention Center was placed on lockdown on August 7, 2023, after jail officials received an anonymous tip about contraband. A search uncovered a phone in one of the jail’s cells. After further investigation, guard Erin Ashley Brown, 36, was arrested and charged with smuggling the phone to a jail detainee.

Indiana: WDRB in Louisville reported that on August 23, 2023, Jefferson County Jail guard Ava Lohrig was fired and arrested on 14 counts of official misconduct and one count of theft. About 10 days earlier, a jail releasee inquired about the lack of funds on the debit card issued to him upon release. Any money remaining in his Inmate Trust Account should have been on the card. However, the releasee complained his funds had mysteriously vanished. An investigation revealed that the card had been used by Lohrig. She was then fired and taken into police custody.

Illinois: KDSK in St. Louis reported that a former Illinois DOC guard was sentenced to two years’ probation on September 12, 2023, for shoving his newlywed wife off a parking garage to her death during a drunken argument in June 2019. Bradley Jenkins, 35, was charged after the incident with third-degree assault in the death of his wife and fellow DOC guard, Allisa Lee Martin, 27 – which was captured on video by the cellphone camera she dropped on the garage’s seventh floor as she plummeted to her death. But District Attorney Kim Gardner withdrew the charge to get more evidence. Over two years later, in April 2022, Gardner reconvened a grand jury to indict Jenkins on third-degree domestic assault. A week before trial, though, he struck a deal and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. Jenkins also never returned to work for DOC, later suing the agency for constructive dismissal. The federal court for the Central District of Illinois dismissed his complaint in July 2022, finding defendant prison officials were entitled to qualified immunity. See: Jenkins v. Jeffreys, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 204104 (C.D. Ill.).

Kansas: A state prisoner has discovered that biting a jail guard is futile. KCTV in Kansas City reported on September 21, 2023, that Dennis E. Shaw, 69, was sentenced to an additional 32 months in the Lansing Correctional Facility after chowing down on the arm of a guard. Shaw, who uses a wheelchair, made inappropriate comments to an unnamed female guard. When other guards tried to roll him away, he put the brake on the wheelchair, then grabbed the arm of a guard who tried release the brake. Pressure points were then applied to loosen the prisoner’s grip, at which point Shaw bit the unnamed guard hard enough to draw blood.

Kentucky: A former BOP guard at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington pleaded guilty on September25, 2023, to having sex with a prisoner. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the plea agreement for Dustin Sparks included a confession to threatening a witness to remain quiet after the September 2022 incident. His plea came a month after another former guard at the prison was convicted of the same crime. Gregory Barrett pleaded guilty on August 25, 2023, to “knowingly engag[ing] in a sexual act” with a prisoner identified as “B.B.” in June and July 2022. He also threatened retaliation against another prisoner, identified as “C.M.,” if she failed to “keep her mouth shut” about the affair. Neither guard is employed at BOP anymore. Both face up to 15 years in prison and five years of supervised release, as well as a fine up to $250,000.

Louisiana: On September 7, 2023, former state prison guard Tichina Williams, 28, was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $5,000 for her role in a massive drug trafficking operation inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The Advocate reported that Williams was the last of five former guards sentenced in the scheme; the others were Jeffrey Day, 38, Tommy Carter, Jr., 35, April Matthews, 29, and Precious Shelvin, 37. Recorded phone calls captured prisoners openly discussing drug shipments and deliveries. In a July 2018 call, a prisoner instructed one of the former guards to hide his narcotics delivery in a trash can. In another, a drug drop was planned at the Angola Prison Rodeo. All five guards were indicted in July 2021 on felony counts of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. Williams and three others evaded prison by pleading guilty to a reduced charge of withholding information of a crime. Carter and Matthews got one year of probation. Shelvin got two years’ probation and a $1,000 fine. Day received 57 months in prison for pleading guilty to the original charge. In addition to the guards, seven prisoners were indicted, along with 10 others outside the prison.

Maine: On June 14, 2023, Penobscot County Jail guard Cpt. Chris Boulier was promoted to Jail Administrator by Sheriff Troy Morton – despite an earlier sexual harassment suit against him that the county settled with a former co-worker. According to the Bangor Daily News, Boulier, along with Sgt. Scott Basso and former Cpl. Steven Buzzell, was accused in the 2009 suit of making juvenile sexual comments to the co-worker, asking her favorite sexual position, whether she moaned or screamed while having sex and what certain female detainees looked like when strip-searched. When she complained, they allegedly made more crude comments. She quit, sued and was awarded an undisclosed sum in a 2010 settlement with the county.

Maryland: According to the Cecil Daily, former Harford County Jail detainee Matthew Dwight Tingler, 39, received a life sentence on September 12, 2023, for attempted first-degree murder of a jail guard. Tingler pleaded guilty in June 2022 to an assault on guard Cpl. Michael Vesek. He was supervising as Tingler made a phone call on November 20, 2021, when the detainee struck Vesek with the phone receiver. He then grabbed a nearby portable radio and struck Vesek in the face with it before retrieving the phone and trying to strangle Vesek with the cord. The criminal complaint noted that “Deputies located Tingler on top of Cpl. Vesek, with both hands wrapped tightly around [his] neck … Cpl. Vesek was semi-conscious when the other deputies found him.”

Minnesota: On September 15, 2023, a state prisoner convicted of killing his wife was sentenced to additional time for assaulting two guards at the Pennington County Jail while he was detained there awaiting his murder trial. As reported by Thief River Falls Times, James Reinbold, 47, was trying to escape custody when he armed himself with a pencil and attacked the two guards in June 2022. One, Katy Rolland, suffered bruising and a neck sprain. Alex Yorba, the other victim, suffered lower back pain. Reinbold got a 36-month prison sentence for the amended felony charge of second-degree assault and a 22-month sentence for a felony charge of fourth degree assault; both will be served concurrently with the 40-year sentence he got for his wife’s murder in August 2022. At the time of that crime in July 2021, he had just returned home on compassionate release from federal prison, where he was serving a five-year term for making pipe bombs. He was still under federal supervision as he evaded authorities for almost a month before he was found hiding out at an abandoned farm. He reportedly believed his wife, Lissette, was seeing other men when he killed her, leaving her body for her children to find. For injuring the jail guards, Reinbold said during the sentencing hearing, “I feel bad about it.”

Mississippi: On June 16, 2023, former Neshoba County Jailguard Randall Bernard Prince, 47, was fired and arrested for having sex with detainees. The Neshoba Democrat reported that evidence from video recordings, detainee statements and phone conversations corroborated allegations that while Prince was manning the jail control tower on May 2, May 19 and June 8, 2023, he distracted co-workers and then lured the victims into restrooms where he assaulted them. For each charge, he faces five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

New Jersey: Two Garden State guards who couldn’t keep their pants zipped were convicted in September 2023 of sexually exploiting prisoners. The Courier News reported that former state DOC guard Tyrell Harris-McLaughlin, 29, got a five-year sentence on September 8, 2023, after he admitted sexually assaulting a prisoner at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women – one of 15 prison officials charged with similar crimes in October 2021. [See: PLN, Dec. 2022, p.63.] Then on September 14, 2023, a jury found former Cumberland County Jail guard Neal D. Armstrong, 35, guilty of threatening to kill an unnamed former jail detainee in 2017 if she revealed their sexual relationship. New Jersey Advance Media reported he was also convicted of attempting to remotely delete incriminating messages from his phone after investigators seized it in July 2018. He faces up to 10 years in prison at sentencing in November 2023.

New Jersey: WKXW in Trenton reported that a former Burlington County Jail guard was arrested on September 13, 2023, after a fellow guard smelled cigarette smoke and inititiated an investigation that found contraband was being supplied to detainees. By then, Abraham Olmedia, 27, had resigned from the position he held for two years. He is accused of selling marijuana and tobacco to a detainee and taking payment from the detainee’s relative.

New York: Two New York jail detainees and a state prisoner were charged or convicted in separate assaults on guards in August 2023. WRGB in Albany reported that Washington County Jail detainee Tydeek Hostos, 30, was arrested on August 17, 2023, and charged with attacking an unnamed guard and injuring his arm. The next day, on August 18, 2023, state prisoner Calvin Pietri, 29, pleaded guilty to tossing urine on an unnamed guard at Collins Correctional Facility, according to WGRZ in Buffalo. Not quite a week later in New York City, Rikers Island jail detainee Rashidi Smith, 41, “apparently flew into a rage” at a guard early on the morning of August 24, 2023, the New York Post reported. For making Smith wait until the main office opened before he could be released, the guard ended up in a neck brace, according to a photo released by the guards’ union, the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA). COBA Pres. Benny Boscio complained that the guard faced death “simply for doing his job.”

New York: As reported by WCBS in New York City, former state prison guard David Olivari, 38, was sentenced on September 5, 2023, to two years’ probation but no jail time, after pleading guilty to impersonating a police officer so he could sexually stalk women. As PLN has reported, Olivari was arrested in February 2022 for using flashing lights on his personal Prius to pull over two drivers the month before, later texting them requests for nude selfies. An agent with the state Department of Corrections and Community Services pretending to be one of the women then nabbed Olivari in a sting. [See: PLN, Nov. 2022, p.62.]

North Carolina: WSOC in Charlotte reported that on September 12, 2023, a former Cleveland County Jail guard was arrested for having sex with an unnamed detainee. Jessica Dover, 34, had already lost her job a week before her arrest, as charges were prepared against her for a felony sex act by a government employee, as well as misdemeanor providing tobacco or vape products to an inmate, for passing the detainee a vape pen. She was released on $10,000 bond.

Ohio: On August 16, 2023, between five and seven-and-a-half years were added to the 11-year sentence of state prisoner Carl Spencer, 32, after he was convicted of attacking a guard at Trumbull Correctional Institution the previous April. WKBN in Youngstown reported that the unnamed guard piqued the prisoner’s ire when she confiscated his “hootch.” She suffered a broken vertebrae and thigh bone in the assault. Spencer was originally sentenced for involuntary manslaughter, abuse of a corpse, abduction and tampering with evidence, after human remains found in his back yard in April 2018 were identified as Nicholas Stein, 25, who had gone missing 15 months before. Spencer’s friend, Bryan Gentry, 32, pleaded guilty to murdering Stein because a love triangle involving the two men and Kristin Lain went bad. For the killing, Gentry was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in November 2018, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported. Spencer has now been moved to Toledo Correctional Institution.

Oregon: Sgt. Levi David Gray, 47, a guard at Coffee Creek Correctional Institution (CCCI) who beat an earlier accusation of drugging and raping a prisoner, was accused again of sexually assaulting a prisoner and arrested on August 23, 2023. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that Gray was indicted on two felony counts of custodial sexual misconduct, plus two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct, for allegedly engaging in “oral sexual intercourse” with a 19-year-old prisoner identified as “J.B.” Employed by the state DOC since 2012, Gray was accused in July 2021 of sexually assaulting another prisoner after dosing her with narcotics he smuggled into the lockup inside an Altoids tin. But prosecutors declined to bring charges in that case. A third prisoner, “K.M.,” accused Gray in a tort claim of forcing her “to perform an act for [his] sexual gratification.” CCCI is the prison where former DOC nurse Tony Klein was charged with sexually abusing nine prisoners. [See: PLN, July 2022, p.49.] Klein was convicted in July 2023.

Pennsylvania: A woman who falsely accused a Luzerne County Prison guard of sexual assault was handed a sentence of up to two years on August 24, 2023. The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader reported that the unnamed guard said he was the one who was stalked by Christine Cromer, 42, as she rifled his garbage and almost ruined his career. Cromer filed sexual assault charges against the guard in September 2022, but she failed to appear in court as scheduled in January 2023, so the case was dismissed. Investigators then found that the guard was out of town on some of the dates when Cromer claimed she was assaulted, and her story fell apart. Just a few years earlier, in July 2019, Cromer was sentenced to nine to 23 months in jail after she falsely accused a state trooper of raping her in 2017 at the casino where she was working as a cocktail waitress.

Pennsylvania: In August 2023, the State Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence (BII) was contacted by security staff at the State Correctional Institution at Forest for assistance with a contraband investigation. According to Gant News, a review of prisoner phone calls then found that contraband Suboxone was being smuggled to a detainee in mailed packages. The plot thickened when investigators determined that a prison employee was involved in the scheme. On August 23, 2023, BII agents unmasked guard Cassandra Lee Stevens, 34, who was fired and arraigned four days later on felony charges of Delivering Contraband Controlled Substance; Manufacture, Delivery, or Possession with Intent to Manufacture or Deliver Controlled Substance; Criminal Use of Communication Facility; and Intentional Possession of a Controlled Substance by a Person Not Registered. Unable to post $25,000 bail, she was awaiting trial in the Warren County Prison. The detainee and a non-incarcerated accomplice were not named.

South Carolina: In August and September 2023, the state DOC fired three employees in as many weeks – including two prison guards – for smuggling contraband. On August 29, 2023, WLXT in Columbia reported that guard trainee Shauntee Lynette Brumfield, 44, was fired from Turbeville Correctional Institution, after she was caught bringing a cellphone, tobacco, a digital scale and chargers into the lockup. She was charged with providing prisoners contraband and criminal conspiracy. Just over a week later, on September 7, 2023, similar charges were filed against Lee Correctional Institution food service supervisor Brian Darrell Keely, 58, and guard Lt. Brittany Nicole Welch, 33. The Charleston Post & Courier said investigators found cell phones stashed in Keely’s office by prisoners whom the guard had tipped off. Both employees were fired as their smuggling scheme unraveled during an investigation, which was launched when a prisoner received pornographic videos of an 11-year-old being sexually abused by a woman who sent them. That woman, Abbygale Alexandria El-Dier, 24, was arrested and charged with that crime on August 14, 2023, according to WSPA in Spartanburg.

South Carolina: WLTXin Columbia reported that on August 21, 2023, Richland County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from a hospital, where a 35-year-old woman claimed that she was physically and sexually assaulted by Marcus Burnett, 40, a guard at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. He allegedly committed the assault in the unnamed victim’s home, after she rebuffed his advances and he punched her. Burnett was charged with first-degree criminal sexual assault and booked into the jail where he worked. His current employment status was unclear.

South Dakota: Love is in the air in South Dakota lockups, apparently, after a state prison guard and a county jail nurse at the Minnehaha County Jail (MCJ) were found engaged in inappropriate relationships on the job. KSFY/KDLT in Sioux Falls reported that a charge of committing “sexual acts prohibited between prison employees and prisoners” was filed on September 6, 2023, against Cassandra Jelsma, who was employed by the state DOC to supervise security cameras at Mike Durfee State Prison. Three witnesses testified that she was in a relationship with prisoner Heith Wiertzema, who admitted the same. She no longer works for DOC and is out on a $4,000 bond. A separate investigation at MCJ revealed that prisoner Jackson Phillips, 24, struck up a relationship with an unnamed jail nurse in September 2022. No charges were filed against the nurse, who is reportedly no longer employed by the jail’s medical contractor, Correctional Medical Management LLC. Phillips was sentenced to life in prison on September 8, 2023, for fatally strangling girlfriend Randi Gerlach, 20, in March 2022.

Tennessee: WATE in Knoxville reported that Cocke County Jail guard David Fletcher Kirkland Jr., 31, was fired on August 10, 2023, when he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to smuggle contraband to a detainee. Also arrested were two alleged co-conspirators, detainee John Dillon Dorsey Jr., 31, and his non-incarcerated girlfriend, Cherokee Cobb Kirkland, 26. She was spotted by investigators as she dropped off a package outside the jail, which Kirkland then retrieved and delivered to Dorsey. Kirkland was charged with bringing contraband into a penal facility, conspiracy and official misconduct. His bond was set at $150,000.

Tennessee: WGNS in Mufreesboro, reported that former Rutherford County Jail guard Clifford Carr, 32, was arrested on July 31, 2023, and charged with sexual contact with a juvenile under 13 years old. According to investigators, on July 12 and 13, 2023 – while still employed with the County – Carr exposed himself and also “displayed sexual activity” to the victim. It is unclear if he then quit or was fired before he was booked into the Cannon County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

United Kingdom: After a former guard at HMP Armley was caught with a neo-Nazi “murder manual” on his computer, he was sentenced to eight years in prison on August 31, 2023, for plotting to commit terroristic acts. BBC News reported that Ashley Podsiad-Sharp, 42, was fired after his August 2022 arrest. Known as “Sarge” in the all-male White Stag Athletic Club – whose members had to prove their commitment to white supremacy in order to gain acceptance – the former guard “trained like a soldier,” prosecutors said, preparing for “armed struggle” against non-whites, non-Christians feminists and sexual minorities. Judge Jeremy Richardson called the group “a cauldron of self-absorbed neo-Nazism masquerading as a low grade all-male sports club” in order to “camouflage your real purpose, to incite violence against those you hated.”

Utah: KSL in Salt Lake City reported that Weber County Jail guard Jennica Lee Massie, 38, was arrested on July 27, 2023, after she was allegedly caught smuggling narcotics to detainees in an undercover sting. In April 2023, Ogden police and the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force discovered that jail detainees were getting narcotics. Interviews and reviews of recorded jail phone calls led investigators to Massie, who they said not only was hooking up detainees with narcotics but also tipping them off to jail searches. Employed by the county Sheriff’s Office since July 2021, she was placed on administrative leave and booked into Box Elder County Jail.

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