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Defense witnesses deny seeing assault on inmate

September 17, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Several defense witnesses on Thursday denied seeing correctional officers assault an inmate at Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown on March 8, 2008.

Former correctional officers Robert Harvey, 63, of Hagerstown, and Keith Morris, 27, of Warfordsburg, Pa., each are charged with second-degree assault in the alleged beating of inmate Kenneth Davis.

The state rested its case Thursday morning in Washington County Circuit Court. The defense then presented the bulk of its case.

Harvey told Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III that he intends to testify when the trial resumes this morning. Morris told Boone he will not testify.

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Richard Miller, chief of security at RCI, was the first witness to testify Thursday morning, under cross-examination by the defense. He testified Wednesday for the state.

The charges have their roots in a March 8, 2008, incident in which correctional officer Timothy Mellott went to check on Davis in his cell on the housing tier and the inmate allegedly struck Mellott in the face. Davis was taken to a holding cell in the medical dispensary building, where prosecutors allege he was attacked.

Under questioning Thursday from defense attorney Wiley Rutledge, who represents Morris, Miller testified that Mellott would be lying if he testified Wednesday that he didn't implicate Morris until an interview with investigators in March 2009.

Mellott implicated Morris in the assault as early as April 8, 2008, Miller testified.

Cpl. Rick Bachtell, the state's final witness, testified that he did not threaten harm to correctional officer Steven Veinote or Veinote's family during an interview at the state police barracks in Hagerstown. Veinote testified Wednesday under questioning by Rutledge and Scott Rolle, who represents Harvey, that he felt his job would be threatened if he didn't change his story.

In response to questions from Assistant Maryland Attorney General Jason Abbott on Wednesday, Veinote testified that during the interview with investigators one of them said, "'We know where you live and who you live with.' That made me feel very uncomfortable."

Prosecutors on Thursday showed a security video from the day of the alleged assault. The camera was trained on the door to the medical dispensary. Prosecutors asked Bachtell to identify the people who entered and exited the building, also noting the times each person was on the screen to establish a timeline.

The footage showed several people who are witnesses in the trial, including Veinote, correctional officers William Rubio, Scott Boozel and Andrew Rice, a nurse and Sgts. James Stotler and John Henson.

Rutledge questioned Bachtell about discrepancies in witness testimony, such as whether Davis was standing or sitting when Harvey allegedly kicked him.

"He was kicked. That's the purpose of what I was trying to determine," Bachtell said.

Bachtell later told Rolle that the "essential facts remained consistent."

Bachtell was recalled as the defense's first witness. He testified that Davis did not speak to interviewers on March 17, 2008, when they visited him at Western Correctional Institution near Cumberland or on March 28, 2008, when they visited him at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md.

Bachtell testified that Davis spoke to him April 2, 2008, when he had an attorney present.

Under questioning by Abbott, Bachtell testified that Davis described one of his attackers as having a flame tattoo, and that Morris has such a tattoo. When asked why Davis didn't did not speak to interviewers on March 17, Bachtell testified that the inmate was too scared to talk as long as he was being held in a western Maryland prison.

Detective Mark Forrest of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services testified that in an March 10 interview at Washington County Hospital, Davis described his attackers as a sergeant they call "Brock," an officer with a flame tattoo, an unknown female with a ponytail and Harvey.

In an April 2 interview, Davis did not mention the female and this time described two attacks, the first involving Harvey and Morris, and a second involving Harvey, Morris, "Brock" and a sergeant Davis didn't know, Forrest testified.

Under questioning by Abbott, Forrest said Davis never said the ponytailed female officer struck him.

Rice wrote in a report what Davis dictated to him about what happened when the inmate and Mellott scuffled on the housing tier. He testified that he wrote the report himself because, for safety reasons, he didn't want to give a pen to an inmate who had just assaulted an officer.

Henson, who now works at Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, testified that he was sent to the medical dispensary building at about 3:30 p.m. the day of the alleged assault to see if any assistance was needed. He did not see any assault, he testified.

Boozel, whose own trial in June on a second-degree assault charge in connection with the alleged assault ended in a mistrial after the jury couldn't reach a verdict, also testified for the defense. He has been reinstated and works at Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown. His case is pending.

During his June trial, prosecutors alleged that Boozel was the officer Davis referred to as "Brock," a reference to Brock Lesnar, a mixed martial arts fighter.

Boozel testified Thursday that no one calls him "Brock" and that it is "incorrect" that he resembles Lesnar.

Boozel said he did not see anyone enter Davis' holding cell at the dispensary or enter the cell himself, and he testified that he did not see any assault and did not commit an assault himself.

Other correctional officers also in the medical dispensary around the time of the alleged assault also testified Thursday they saw no assault, and committed no assault.

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