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Man dies in Md. 63 accident

February 12, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Former Maryland correctional officer Craig Allen Jackson was expected to enter a plea Tuesday in Washington County Circuit Court to a bribery charge stemming from a smuggling incident in the prison where he worked, but he died before the court hearing in a single-vehicle accident in Cearfoss.

Jackson also was known as the local leader of the National Alliance, regarded by the Anti-Defamation League as a dangerous white-supremacist organization.

Maryland State Police were called at 8:11 a.m. to a stretch of Greencastle Pike - Md. 63 - where a 1991 Ford Ranger XLT pickup had hit a tree about two miles north of U.S. 40.

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The driver of the pickup was identified as Craig Allen Jackson, 38, of 17949 Reiff Church Road, Trooper 1st Class Phillip Martin said. Martin said Jackson, who was alone in the vehicle, was dead when police arrived. Jackson was wearing a seatbelt, Martin said.

Jackson was northbound when "for no reason, he crossed the center line," Martin said. There were no skid marks along the car's path toward the tree, he said.

The truck had Maryland license tags "F ZOG," which Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion said had significance among white-supremacist groups.

The truck also had a bumper sticker in the rear window with the Confederate flag insignia, which read: "Don't blame me, I voted for Jeff Davis." Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Red, 12-gauge shotgun shells were scattered around the truck after the accident. Martin said they were low-power, target-shooting rounds, and some had been fired and some had not. Martin said police did not find any weapons in the vehicle.

Martin said Jackson's body would be taken to the state Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore. A clerk there said no record was available for Jackson as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jackson was expected to enter a plea to one count of bribery. He was accused of taking payments between September 2001 and January 2002 in exchange for taking tobacco into the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown where he worked, Cirincion said.

Published reports in 2001 identified Jackson as the president of the local chapter of the National Alliance. Prison officials at the time said there had been no reports of his treating inmates differently because of race.

Cirincion said the publicity of his being a leader in a white supremacist group led to "very general, vague threats" directed at him from black prison inmates.

An internal prison investigation along with a federal investigation uncovered the following, Cirincion said:

  • Jackson was taking loose tobacco into the prison. Wrapping it in plastic bags and placing it in coffee tins, Jackson gave the tobacco to an inmate.

  • The inmate's mother sent Jackson at least 10 money orders through a Hagerstown post office box. The money orders totaled at least $4,050.


"That's not the entire story," however, said Jackson's attorney, Jack Blomquist.

Because of the threats resulting from the news reports, Jackson took bribes to deflect the threats, which included five documented death threats from black inmates, Blomquist said in a phone interview from his office in Frederick, Md.

"It wasn't a motive of greed, it was a motive of self-preservation. He was just trying to get to his retirement," Blomquist said.

Blomquist said Jackson was able to separate his association with the National Alliance from his job, and was respected in the law enforcement community.

"He's much more complex," Blomquist said.

Blomquist described Jackson as a dedicated public servant in civilian and military life, and he provided supporting documents.

Jackson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from November 1983 to May 1987, during which time he worked on President Reagan's Camp David security detail, specifically during visits from then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Naksone, the documents said. He achieved the rank of corporal.

In November 1985, Jackson received the Presidential Service Badge. In May 1986, he received the U.S. Marine Corps Certificate of Good Conduct.

In 1988, Jackson was certified in fire and rescue operations through the University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute and later that year completed training through the Salisbury Fire Department. In 1989, he trained with the Maugansville Goodwill Volunteer Fire Co.

Also in 1988, Jackson completed entrance training to become a state correctional officer.

After a prison riot at the Maryland Correctional Institution in 1991, Jackson was among a group of men selected to help restore order to a problematic area of the prison.

A superior to Jackson wrote, in part, about those men: "Their high degree of professionalism made an immediate impact. These men command respect from everyone around them, including these seemingly unmanageable inmates."

In 1992, Jackson received a letter from an assistant warden thanking him for help during a food drive for Florida hurricane victims.

Capt. Priscilla Doggett, spokeswoman for the Maryland Division of Correction, said Tuesday that Jackson was not employed at the prison at the time of his death.

Doggett said she did not immediately know when he last worked for the division.

Blomquist said no evidence was produced that Jackson's affiliation with the National Alliance led to violence in Maryland, and "he's never been convicted of a crime."

Blomquist said the final agreements for Jackson's plea were still in the works before his death, but "he was ready to take responsibility to his mistakes" Tuesday morning.

When told Jackson's license tag read "F ZOG," he said he'd also heard it had a white-supremacist meaning, but said "that's the side of him I don't know."

"Whatever he did in his private life wasn't affecting anyone else. It was just a sad story," Blomquist said.

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