Monday, December 29, 2008

Shocking story

Jay Weaver's story this weekend about an FDC prisoner being repeatedly raped by guards is a must-read.

The victim successfully sued the prison officials in federal court, but her case against the Bureau of Prisons was dismissed because of the statute of limitations:

A female inmate cooperating as a government witness was sexually assaulted numerous times by guards at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, but prison officials discredited her reports and did nothing to protect her over a four-year span, a federal judge has found.
Even the judge couldn't help the woman after she sued the U.S. government and four guards in 2007, accusing them of making her strip, touching her genitals and, in the case of one correctional officer, raping her repeatedly.
The victim, identified as ''S.R.'' in court papers, settled with three of the officers but lost her $5 million liability case against the government because of a technicality -- the two-year statute of limitations had run out.
But that didn't stop the judge from finding the U.S. Bureau of Prisons at fault.
''S.R. was sexually abused on numerous occasions by the individual defendants,'' Judge Cecilia Altonaga wrote in a November order. ``The BOP and FDC Miami did have notice of the illegal conduct taking place, and were woefully deficient in addressing it and giving S.R. protection.''


Although she was acting as a cooperating witness, the BOP falsely claimed that she was crazy and her allegations were made up:

According to court records, the Bureau of Prisons wrote off the inmate as ''mentally ill'' in an unsigned memo. A senior U.S. Marshals Service official said her allegations were ''fabricated.'' The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General -- which waited more than a year to question two of the three guards and didn't question the third -- said it couldn't substantiate her allegations in early 2005.

That's shameful, especially because the same government thought she was credible enough to use as a witness. The victim responded to Jay Weaver in a telephone interview:

S.R. said the prison system's dismissive response exacerbated her ordeal in the Federal Detention Center, which houses defendants awaiting trial and convicted prisoners cooperating with prosecutors.
''What they did to me they could never undo. I can't sleep at night. I've gotten to the point I don't trust anybody,'' said S.R., a 36-year-old North Carolina resident who was released from prison in 2006 after 10 years behind bars.
''The system took advantage of me,'' she told The Miami Herald in a phone interview. ``They knew when to pull me to testify. I was a very credible witness. I was competent. But then when I needed them, I was mentally ill. I was incompetent.''


What happened to the guards?

Prison authorities have fired two of the four guards named in S.R.'s lawsuit -- Antonio Echevarria and Damioun Cole -- for reasons unrelated to her allegations.
In 2005, Cole pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of female inmate ''B.P.'' at the Miami detention center and received a one-year sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alejandro Soto said at the plea hearing that the government could have proved that Cole also sexually assaulted S.R., but Soto agreed not to prosecute Cole on that battery charge as part of the plea agreement.
The second accused guard, Echevarria, denied sexually assaulting S.R., according to investigative records. In 2006, he lost his job after pleading guilty to buying a firearm for a felon and was sentenced to five months in prison.
The third accused guard, Isiah W. Pollock III, resigned in 2003. He testified at S.R.'s civil trial that he resigned for family reasons, but prison officials testified he got caught playing cards with male inmates and bringing in contraband for female inmates.
Pollock's lawyer, Michael Pasano, vehemently denied his client ever sexually abused the inmate.
The fourth accused guard, Charles E. Jenkins, still works as a correctional officer at the detention center. He denied sexually assaulting S.R., records show.
After Justice Department investigators said they couldn't substantiate S.R.'s complaints against Echevarria, Pollock and Jenkins, federal prosecutors in Miami declined to file charges against them in 2005.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You cannot be serious. Even a liberal like David or the guy/gal above would have to acknowledge that prosecutors cannot be responsible for the operations of the BOP, Marshals service and any other federal institiution, on top of thier other responsabilities.

Really, people in prison say all kinds of things all the time -- all you have to do is read a couple pro se pleadings to know that allegations like this are common.

The memo from the BOP/Marshals clearly establishes that they were aware of the allegation and deemed it to be not credible. What more could the prosecutor do? A memo such as that is not Brady -- come on.

Joseph H. Wolenski said...

Stories like this example of abuse of power affirm my resolve to be the best criminal defense I can be.

Anonymous said...

A memo from BOP (an agency of DOJ) to the prosecutor/government that a cooperating witness is mentally ill or is fabricating is not Brady for the cases where she was being employed as a witness? You are out of your mind brother.

Anonymous said...

How does that show the defendant did not commit the crime. Technicalities like this one is where good defense lawyers make their living, but in truth they are merely a fiction and are meaningless if you really want the truth.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but why is it Acosta or Jimenez's fault that a prosecutor screwed up?

David Oscar Markus said...

I deleted a comment because it was personally attacking people. I am happy to have commenters engage in debate about what Brady/Giglio means and what prosecutors should be doing, but I will not allow people to be mean.

Anonymous said...

Is it mean to criticize the person in charge of the office for failing to ensure that constitutional supreme court precedent is followed in good faith?

If not, then both Jimenez and Acosta should be criticized for failing to carry out their duties to ensure that people are prosecuted within the law.

Is it really acceptable to stand on the fact that most convictions in the 11th circuit are not reversed for Brady violations because they are deemed harmless error. How many go unnoticed?

For example...would this one ever have come to light had it not been for the fact that the actions of one of the US Atty's subordinates FAILED TO PREVENT A WOMAN FROM BEING RAPED?

It is a public position that is accepted and those individuals have no problem taking credit for having served. For example, Mr. Jimenez's personal bio reads in part:

"Prior to joining Kenny Nachwalter in June 2005, Mr. Jimenez served as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. In that capacity, he led approximately 230 federal prosecutors in one of the most significant federal districts in the nation. During his tenure, the office achieved remarkable success in matters of national security, health-care, securities, corporate and consumer fraud, narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations, public corruption, violent crime, environmental violations, and child exploitation, among other areas."

Where does it mention this abysmal failure. Isn't that what a public forum such as this is for?

How is in not entirely appropriate to point out that this major blunder happened under his watch and to question (1) what was done by him and Acosta (the person that followed him) to ensure not just that people being RAPED are heard, but also that defendant's don't have their constitutional rights violated, and (2) what is being done to discipline the prosecutor that was responsible.

Both Jimenez and Acosta have earned the criticism by failing to fulfill the most important of their duties in a dismal manner. That office has no concept of how to preserve the integrity of the process and it is because of their failures. Perhaps that too should be tacked on to their resumes.

Commodore said...

Here Here! (But why the personal attacks?)

David Oscar Markus said...

There's nothing wrong with criticizing someone for something they did or didn't do (although I think your criticism here is misplaced). But calling someone a silly name isn't a legitimate or mature criticism, especially if you are doing it anonymously. Your last comment stays because you avoid the name calling, which wasn't so hard was it?

Ed Williams said...

Not Brady, but should be disclosed anyway. But, exactly how many Brady cases do you think a US Attorney has actually read well enough to know the parameters? I suspect the ones mentioned never even read all the DOJ manuals and memoranda on subject. Scholars and legal ethicists do not become US Attorneys.

What's wrong with mean? Mean is often good even for the object, and usually the truth that goes unsaid otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I have oral argument coming up before the U.S. 11th Circuit on January 15. Can anyone give me any insight on Judges Carnes, Dubina and Goldberg (sitting by designation from the International Trade Court)? Any help would be appreciated. Habeas Corpus matter.

Commodore said...

David,

Don't let 11:30 get you down, he is an asshole.