By MIKE CATALINI, Associated Press
TRENTON, NJ (AP) – A “brutal” attack on inmates by guards at New Jersey’s only women’s prison has resulted in misconduct and other charges against the prison’s top official, the prosecutor said on Wednesday Acting General of the State.
Four other prison officers were also indicted, bringing the total number of officials facing criminal charges to 15.
“We hold accountable all those involved in the brutal assaults in January, from the line officers working in the cell block to the top prison official on duty that night,” Acting Attorney General Andrew said. Bruck in a statement.
This is the latest development in a nearly year-long investigation that officials said was still not completed on Wednesday. The investigation had far-reaching fallout, including the departure of the state’s Commissioner of Corrections and Gov. Phil Murphy’s statement that he will close the Edna Mahan Correctional Center for Women in Clinton, New Jersey, where the alleged attack took place.
Sean St. Paul, who was administrator of Edna Mahan Correctional Facility, has been charged with official misconduct, conspiracy and tampering with public documents, Bruck said.
St. Paul is no longer employed at the prison but was responsible when guards forcibly removed women from their cells – known as forced extractions – in January, authorities said. He failed to make the required notifications on injuries sustained by the victims, according to Bruck, while emailing superiors who reported false information and concealed the force that was used against some victims.
He also falsely stated that inmates apologized to him, Bruck said.
A message requesting comments on behalf of St. Paul has been left with his lawyer.
Major Ryan Valentin, Senior Correctional Police Officer Desiree Lewis, Senior Correctional Police Officer Brandon Burgos and Senior Correctional Police Officer Marika Sprow were also charged on Wednesday. Each faces a charge of falsifying records. Valentin also faces charges of misconduct and conspiracy. Lewis has been charged with aggravated assault while Burgos and Sprow are not facing additional charges.
Burgos’ lawyer, Anthony Iacullo, claims his client is claiming his innocence.
âOfficer Burgos performed his duties that day and every day to the best of his ability. We are confident that when this case goes to court, Officer Burgos will be exonerated, “Iacullo said in an email.
Valentin’s attorney, Timothy Donohue, said his client would fight the charges.
âIt is truly unfortunate that the attorney general’s office chose to file a complaint against my client based on innuendo and unfounded speculation. Major Valentin will vigorously dispute this accusation and we will be justified once all the facts have been heard, âDonohue said.
Lewis’s attorney, Michael Rubas, said in an email his client would plead not guilty.
âThe one-year delay in filing these charges speaks volumes about the strength of the state’s case,â Rubas said.
Sprow’s attorney, Matthew Troiano, said her client would challenge the charges against her.
An image of what happened in January at the prison emerged during the year, based on testimonies from law enforcement, videos released by authorities showing the extractions, and a commissioned report. by the governor.
One video clip, for example, showed five prison guards wearing helmets, chest, back and shoulder armor entering a woman’s cell in the prison and punching and hitting the inmate on the head. “Stop hitting me in the face!” The woman shouts.
The governor’s report in June said guards used excessive force against inmates and filed false reports after removing inmates from their cells. Staff also failed to prohibit male guards from seeing inmates during strip searches, in violation of policy.
He also shed light on what led to the attack and how it unfolded, saying that in the days leading up to the attack, there had been “a coordinated effort” on the part of some inmates to “splash out” on them. prison guards. It is a term for throwing fluids at them, including urine and feces. The report notes that the head of the prison guards’ union said officers were upset and things were at a “boiling point.”
Lawyers for some of the other guards also said their clients would fight the charges.
The incident led Murphy, a Democrat re-elected this year, to say he would close the jail, although the timeline for this is unclear.
It also led lawmakers to seek the ouster of Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks, who resigned in June.
The US Department of Justice also entered into a consent agreement with the state stemming from other long-standing issues at the prison, namely that officials were failing to protect the constitutional rights of inmates by failing to protect them from sexual abuse. . The August deal resulted in a federal monitor in prison.
Charges laid by the state as of January do not include any complaints of sexual assault.
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