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Court records detail beating of RCI inmate

May 22, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- An inmate who was beaten in four different attacks over three consecutive eight-hour shifts at a prison south of Hagerstown was injured so badly that he was unrecognizable and spent four days in Washington County Hospital, according to allegations in documents recently made available in Washington County Circuit Court.

Several correctional officers were fired, and others were criminally charged with second-degree assault, following the alleged attacks at Roxbury Correctional Institution on March 8 and 9, 2008.

One of those officers, Lucas Kelley, whose name also appears in documents as Lucas Kelly, initially withheld information about the attacks from investigators, but later broke ranks with the other officers involved and testified against his former colleagues during an administrative hearing, according to allegations in documents filed in connection with a state administrative hearing.

Michael Morgan, one of the officers whose firing was upheld by an administrative law judge, has filed an appeal in Washington County Circuit Court seeking judicial review of that decision. As a result, documents from the administrative hearing have been filed in Washington County Circuit Court.

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Photographs taken of inmate Kenneth Davis at Washington County Hospital by Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Detective Sgt. Mark Forrest on March 9, 2008, are included in the court file. They show a man whose face appears to have been battered and is covered with bruises.

The situation arose after RCI was placed on lockdown March 6, 2008, after several inmates, many of whom were associated with the Dead Man Inc. gang, assaulted correctional officers while leaving the dining hall, according to information in the administrative law judge's decision now available in Washington County Circuit Court.

With the institution placed on lockdown after the assaults, inmate movements were severely restricted and created what is described in the documents as a "tense atmosphere."

The inmates accused of assaulting the officers later were transferred to North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland, Md., where, officials have alleged, they were assaulted. The administrative hearing documents do not show when the inmates were transferred.

The court documents allege that a correctional officer identified as Officer Timothy Mellott was checking on Davis in the inmate's cell on March 8 when Davis punched the officer and pinned him briefly against the wall in what an administrative law judge described as an unprovoked attack.

Another officer helped restrain Davis, whose injuries were photographed before he was moved to a cell in the Administrative Segregation Intake Area, known as ASIA, the documents allege.

Davis was beaten four times over three consecutive eight-hour work shifts while he was being held in ASIA, records in court allege.

Here is what documents connected to the administrative hearing allege was done to Davis: He was beaten twice during the 3 to 11 p.m. shift on March 8, 2008. He was beaten again on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift that spanned March 8 to March 9, 2008. He was beaten just after the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift began March 9.

Davis could not identify the officers on the last shift who assaulted him because his eyes were swollen almost completely shut, the records in court allege.

The allegations against Morgan relate to the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift on March 9, 2008.

"Sometime between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on March 9, 2008, the Appellant, with other COs, participated in the severe beating of inmate Davis in the latter's ASIA Unit cell. The officers struck inmate Davis with their fists and kicked him. The assault took place over the course of approximately no more than five minutes," according to the administrative law judge's findings of fact.

When RCI Capt. Michael Leigh, who was investigating Davis' alleged assault on the officer on March 8, 2008, went to interview the inmate at about 8:15 a.m. on March 9, Davis was being treated for severe injuries to his face. The captain, who knew Davis, could not recognize him because the inmate's face was badly injured, documents in court allege.

Both the captain and the prison's security chief interviewed Davis, who did not want to tell them who beat him.

The inmate was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he was treated for multiple facial fractures, lumbar fractures, a rib fracture, and multiple cuts and bruises. He was in the hospital for four days.

Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services officials began investigating the beatings.

Investigators who pulled 27 surveillance videotapes from the ASIA office discovered that all of the tapes except one showed only video static, according to the administrative law judge's findings of fact. The only tape with any images started at about 7:35 a.m., and the incident in question happened before that time.

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