Sunday, August 25, 2013

FL - Ex-Florida prison boss: Drunken orgies tainted system

James McDonough
James McDonough
Original Article

TALLAHASSEE (CNN) - Softball, drunken orgies and a prison system run like the mafia. That's what Florida's former prison secretary says he inherited when he took over one of the nation's largest prison systems two years ago.

In fact, on his first day on the job, James McDonough says he walked into his office -- the same one his predecessor used -- and there was crime scene tape preventing anyone from entering.

"That was an indication we had a problem in the department," McDonough told CNN in an exclusive interview before he stepped down last Thursday.

McDonough revealed a startling list of alleged abuses and crimes going on inside Florida's prisons:
  • Top prison officials admitting to kickbacks;
  • Guards importing and selling steroids in an effort to give them an edge on the softball field;
  • Taxpayer funds to pay for booze and women;
  • Guards who punished other guards who threatened to report them.

"Corruption had gone to an extreme," McDonough said, saying it all began at the top. "They seemed to be drunk half the time and had orgies the other half, when they weren't taking money and beating each other up."

He added, "Women were treated like chattel in this department."

McDonough described a bizarre prison culture among those that ran the system -- one that he says seemed obsessed with inter-department softball games and the orgies after games.

"I cannot explain how big an obsession softball had become," he said. "People were promoted on the spot after a softball game at the drunken party to high positions in the department because they were able to hit a softball out of the park a couple times."

"The connection between the softball and the parties and the corruption and the beatings was greatly intertwined."

The parties and orgies were often carried out at a waterfront ranch house built on prison grounds for a former warden with taxpayer dollars, McDonough said. The house was complete with a bar, pool table and hot tub.

McDonough is a former Army colonel who commanded troops in Vietnam and Africa. He served as Florida's drug czar before taking on the job as the head of Florida's prison system, which oversees 90,000 inmates.

He left his post last Thursday as secretary of Florida's Department of Corrections because, he says, he feels he has cleaned up the corruption. It's time, he said, "to turn this over to law and order people that have made this their life's goal."

A Brooklyn, New York, native, McDonough says he witnessed the way the mafia worked in his youth and it provided him a keen insight into how his prison predecessor, James Crosby, operated.

"It reminded me of the petty mafia I saw on the streets of Brooklyn when I was growing up in the late 1950s, early 1960s -- petty, small-minded, thugish, violent, dangerous, outside the law, and completely intolerable for a society such as ours in the United States of America," he said.

Crosby would later plead guilty to bribery charges in relation to kickbacks from a prison vendor. He's now locked up in a federal prison. He refused CNN's request for an interview for this report.

"He's serving time in a federal prison. I hope he reforms and gets out and prospers," McDonough said.

He added, "When you have a rotten guy at the top, or gal at the top, it can be very invasive, and it's a cancer that needs to be excised."

And getting rid of this "cancer" is exactly what McDonough says he did. McDonough fired 90 top prison officials -- wardens, supervisors, colonels and majors -- claiming they were corrupt or, at the very least, not to be trusted. He demoted 280 others.

Criminal charges were filed against more than 40 others, and most were convicted. In addition to the orgies and other misconduct outside the cell blocks, there were other allegations of prisoners being harmed, McDonough said.

"In some of the pockets of corruption that we found, they [prisoners] were being abused," he said.

Among those arrested were seven officers accused of beating inmates, including five accused of forcing a prisoner to drink toilet water. All have pleaded not guilty.

Tina Hayes, the director of the prison's department initiatives who has worked in the prison system for 28 years, said the atmosphere before McDonough arrived was "a little tense" with workers "always on edge."

She said employees who didn't attend softball games or play on the teams were "isolated" and "pushed aside."

"I used to tell staff day in and day out: Keep your head high; do what's right; you know what morally is right; you've got some ethics; don't bow down to it," Hayes told CNN.

McDonough, she said, brought "standards back into the department."

"People can speak out now without being afraid to say what they need to say."

McDonough says the majority of the prison system's 28,000 employees were honest, hard-working people who weren't corrupt at all. But he says many of the top prison officials weren't and he believes he has weeded out "an organized vein of corruption."

"They were like frat boys out of control."


LA - Former Alexandria police officer (Walter Urena) sentenced for incest

Walter Urena
Walter Urena
Original Article

08/23/2013

Walter Urena, a retired Alexandria police officer, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for multiple charges of aggravated incest.

Urena, 66, was charged with six counts of aggravated incest, and a jury convicted him on five counts.

He must serve 85 percent of the 40-year term before becoming eligible for parole. He must also register as a sex offender for life.

Urena was arrested on the charges in July 2011. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Jamilla Bynog and Monique Metoyer.


FL - Former Polk deputy (Mark Hicks) arrested for having inappropriate contact with an underaged girl

Mark Hicks
Mark Hicks
Original Article

Almost every time we hear of a cop being arrested for a sexual crime, it's in Florida (See here). Eventually all of their police force will be on the online registry.

08/24/2013

POLK (FOX 13) - A resigned Polk County deputy was arrested Friday for having inappropriate contact with an underaged girl.

Mark Hicks is charged with the Use of a Computer to Solicit a Minor, Exposing a Minor to Harmful Material, Tampering/Destroying Evidence, and Battery.

According to the Bartow Police Department, they received word Hicks had been sending lewd messages and images to a 17-year-old girl. Their investigation revealed the girl had visited Hicks back on August 7th, and during that time, he had kissed and fondled her without her consent. Later that day, police say Hicks used a cell phone to send the girl lewd text messages, including a picture of his private area.

Late Friday, detectives made contact with Hicks at his home. During questioning, detectives say he admitted to kissing and hugging the victim, and sending the lewd pictures.

While Hicks was being processed at Bartow Police Department, authorities say he attempted to hang himself while in a holding cell. He was transported to the Bartow Regional Medical Center and eventually cleared.

He is currently being held in the Crisis Stabilization Unit at the Polk County jail.


SC - Retired SC trooper (Robert James Priester) faces sexual misconduct charges

Robert James Priester
Robert James Priester
Original Article

08/24/2013

By Vanessa Nguyen

JASPER (WTOC) - A retired South Carolina Highway Patrol sergeant faces charges of criminal sexual misconduct with a minor.

According to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division's arrest warrant, Robert James Priester used his status as a "well-known family friend" to get close to the underage victim.

The report indicates that he allowed the young girl to drive his car and sexually assaulted her against her will.

Priester is a 26-year veteran of the South Carolina Highway Patrol and retired in 2008.

He then went to work at the Jasper County Courthouse as an Administrative Tax Consultant.

County Auditor Hazel Holmes says she hired him because of his law enforcement background.

"I was very grateful and thankful to have Robert work for me and still is working at this time," said Holmes.

Holmes said she is still trying to wrap her mind around what's happened.

She has not terminated Priester yet and she stands by his character.

"I believe in the employee that I had working for me, he's a caring person, he's concerned about people, he's willing to help people at any given point," said Holmes.

She's known Priester for more than four years and says it's important to remember that not everything may be what it seems.

"At any given day, it could be any one of us that's accused incorrectly or mistaken for someone else or anything, anything can happen," said Holmes.

WTOC contacted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, but they refused to comment on the investigation.


ID - Ex-Jailer (Julie McCormick) May Avoid Prison Sentence For Lewd Conduct With Juvenile Inmate

Julie McCormick
Julie McCormick
Original Article

08/24/2013

By GEORGE PRENTICE

An ex-juvenile corrections officer has admitted to an inappropriate relationship with an inmate but may have avoided a prison sentence of her own.
- Of course she has.  If this were a male abusing boys or girls, they'd be in prison, but she's a female, and they almost always get lighter sentences.

Julie McCormick, 31, was arrested in November 2012 after a 15-year-old male said he suffered emotional and personal distress as a result of "statutory rape, lewd, and lascivious conduct, sexual battery and neglect" when he had a sexual relationship with McCormick—and that she has the victim's initials tattooed on the side of her neck.

McCormick was arrested nearly five months after a group of IDJC employees filed suit against the state of Idaho and nearly seven months after IDOC staff reportedly witnessed inappropriate behavior between McCormick and a juvenile at the Nampa facility.
- If they witnessed inappropriate behavior, why did it take nearly seven months to report it?

On Aug. 23, McCormick pleaded guilty to a charge of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 but this morning's Idaho Press Tribune reports that she struck a deal with Canyon County prosecutors to cooperate in the investigation in a separate criminal trial.

It turns out that McCormick, after being arrested for lewd conduct, was housed in the Canyon County Jail with Nicole Kirtley, accused in connection with the shooting death of a Nampa man. Prosecutors said Kirtley allegedly shared "relevant and material" information with McCormick at the jailhouse.

McCormick is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, Nov. 12 after the presumed end of the Kirtley trial.