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Nine ex-RCI officers charged

February 27, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Nine former officers at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown and six former officers at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., have been charged in connection with March 2008 incidents, Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced Friday.

The RCI officers each were charged with one count of second-degree assault for allegedly assaulting an inmate at the prison in March 2008, the Attorney General's office said in a news release. The officers were charged by criminal information in Washington County, spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said in a news release.

Conviction of second-degree assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

The North Branch officers have been charged with one count each of second-degree assault, and one count each of conspiracy to commit an assault for allegedly assaulting inmates at that prison in March 2008, the office said in a news release. The officers were charged by criminal information in Allegany County, according to the news release.

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Court records were not available Friday, but the Attorney General's office released the names and birth dates of those charged.

The following former RCI correctional officers were charged with second-degree assault: Robert Harvey, 62; Scott Boozel, 28; Tim Mellott, 22; Keith Morris, 26; Lucas Kelly, 29; Reginald Martin, 38; Michael Morgan, 39; Dustin Norris, 24; and Tyson Hinkle, 33.

The following former North Branch officers were charged with second-degree assault and conspiracy to commit an assault: Jason Weaver, 35; Richard Robinson, 36; Sherman Jones, 39; Kenneth Platter, 36; Tony Nery, 42; and Ryan Dolan, 28.

The Herald-Mail reported in 2008 about a series of firings amid excessive force allegations in connection with alleged assaults at the state prisons.

In April 2008, 15 officers were fired from RCI, a medium-security prison, and eight were fired from North Branch.

Two additional RCI officers were fired but later reinstated.

At least two injured inmates were involved in separate incidents before the excessive-force allegations that led to the terminations, prisons spokesman Mark Vernarelli has said.

One RCI inmate was found injured during the weekend of March 8, 2008, and was hospitalized. Prison officials have said that incident might have been connected to a March 6, 2008, assault by inmates on officers.

At least one inmate at North Branch, who had been at RCI, alleged he was a victim of excessive force, Vernarelli has said.

In November 2008, Allegany County State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg and Washington County State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. announced they sought the attorney general's involvement in the investigation.

A North Branch lieutenant who was fired in April 2008 amid allegations of excessive force was reinstated by an administrative law judge in December 2008.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman Rick Binetti declined to comment Friday afternoon about the criminal charges.

This case is being prosecuted by the Attorney General's Criminal Division. The Maryland State Police and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Internal Investigative Unit assisted in the investigation.

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