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Inmate testifies at ex-RCI officer's trial

June 15, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A prison inmate on Monday testified that a former correctional officer, whom the inmate nicknamed Brock Lesnar after an Ultimate Fighter, punched him in the face and broke his nose during an assault March 8, 2008, in a holding cell at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

"He was the first at the door, the first through, and the first to break my nose," Kenneth Davis, 42, testified during the trial for Scott Boozel, 28, of McConnellsburg, Pa.

Boozel is one of nine former Roxbury officers who was charged with second-degree assault in February. Prosecutors allege that Davis was beaten four times over three shifts at the prison. His jury trial will resume this morning.

Two of the officers pleaded guilty in May and agreed to testify against their former colleagues. One of them took the stand Monday.

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Prosecutors on Monday morning dropped charges against one of the other officers, Reginald Martin, 38, of Chambersburg, Pa., court records show.

Martin's attorney, Alan Winik, said Monday afternoon that he believes the Attorney General's office dropped the charges because Davis has testified in previous proceedings that his assailants were all white men. Martin is black.

Assistant Attorney General Jason Abbott, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on the case.

Timothy Mellott, 23, of Woodbridge, Va., testified Monday against Boozel as part of a plea agreement he entered into in May.

The charges have their roots in a March 8, 2008, incident in which Mellott went to check on Davis in his cell and Davis struck Mellott in the face

Mellott called the incident in Davis' cell a "sudden attack" and said the inmate pinned him. Two other officers were needed to subdue and restrain Davis, Mellott testified.

Those officers took Davis to a holding cell in the Administrative Segregation Intake Area, known as ASIA, which is also near the prison's medical dispensary. Mellott also went.

When they arrived, Lt. Robert Harvey asked what happened, and Mellott told him that the inmate punched him.

Harvey then asked Davis, "why the (expletive) did you do that?" and kicked him in the chest while the inmate's hands were cuffed behind his back, Mellott testified.

The inmate fell out of the chair he was sitting in and asked, "why are you doing this to me, Sarge?" Mellott testified. Mellott said he believed Harvey thought being called Sarge was an insult -- because he was a lieutenant -- and kicked the inmate a second time.

Mellott admitted that he kicked Davis in the back.

The inmate was on the floor, trying to protect himself from the blows, while he was beaten, Mellott testified.

Mellott also talked about a "brotherhood of silence" in the prison and "unwritten code" that ensures correctional officers have each other's backs, he testified. It was because of this "code" that his use-of-force report about the initial scuffle in Davis' cell did not document the later assault in ASIA, Mellott said.

What happened in the ASIA holding cell "was never intended to be documented," he testified.

Had he included in the report information about what happened in ASIA, he would have put other officers in a bad situation and would have been an outcast, Mellott said. No one would have wanted to work with him or talk to him.

During an interview at the state police barracks, Mellott finally told the truth, he testified. He then lost his job at the prison.

Davis was the last witness of the day Monday.

He is serving time for robbery and has been in prison 12 years.

Davis admitted that he was in the wrong when Mellott was conducting the regular check of his cell the afternoon of March 8, 2008. The prison was under lockdown because of an unrelated uprising March 6, 2008, and inmates weren't being allowed out of their cells for meals.

When he stood up to get a bagged lunch out of his locker, "I realized I made a bad decision," Davis said.

Inmates were supposed to remain on their beds while officers searched their cells, the inmate testified.

"I knew I was in the dead wrong," he said.

The officers who subdued him in the cell did not use excessive force. "It was a normal take-down situation," Davis testified.

But after he was taken to ASIA, Davis testified, he was beaten, first by Harvey, and then by a group. He identified Boozel as the person who punched him in the face. He recognized the officer from two prior conversations they had about weight lifting, Davis said.

Under questioning by defense attorney D. Bruce Poole, Davis denied being a member of the prison gang Dead Man Inc., although probably 90 percent of the white men in prison are members, he said. He also denied having agreed to "do a hit" for the gang. He also denied that he assaulted Mellott so he would be transferred out of Roxbury to another prison.

In his opening statement, Poole said the case against his client was built on an "exceedingly poor" investigation.

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