Can Prison Wardens Be Criminally Charged for Inmate Injuries Occurring Under Their Watch?

“THE WARDEN IS CHARGED WITH THE DUTY OF TREATING THE INMATES WITH HUMANITY AND KINDNESS”

by Sharon Rondeau

Is WTSP Warden Jonathan Lebo criminally responsible for injuries to Richard A. Mayers and others in his custody?

(Jul. 30, 2016) — The Post & Email is in receipt of three letters from TDOC inmate Richard A. Mayers, #347890, who is housed at West Tennessee State Penitentiary (WTSP) in Henning and describes unspeakable abuse at the hands of prison guards.

Although we normally redact the names of inmates from the inmate letters we publish to avoid retaliation, in this case, we are publishing the inmate’s name so that the FBI will know who to interview in the event that it launches an investigation.

The Post & Email has previously reported that illegal activities such as drug-smuggling, identified in Operation Ghost Guard in Georgia last winter, are reportedly ongoing within Tennessee prisons without apparent investigation or prosecution. At the time the FBI announced that indictments were issued against more than two dozen correction officers, inmates and outside civilians, the agent-in-charge said, “This is not just Georgia’s problem, it’s a national problem.”

All three letters from Mayers were received this month and are remarkable in their clarity given that he alleges “unbelievable barbarism” which includes having been “beaten bloody, my left eardrum busted by a facist assistant warden, his chief of security and two other members of his gang (from top in rank) AW Johnny Fitz.”

Mr. Mayers stated in one of the letters that he is confined to a wheelchair most of the time and is 53 years old.  He said that his troubles began after he was “illegally shot by rogue police” in Millersville, a town in Sumner County.

The Post & Email has reported on corruption cases in Sumner County involving both the civil court and the county jail. Police and jailer brutality has been noted in Monroe County.

According to a state law which became effective in 2013, “any person employed as a jail administrator, jailer, corrections officer or guard in acounty jail or workhouse shall…Have a good moral character as determined by a thorough investigation conducted by the sheriff’s office.”

As a result of more than six years of research and reporting, The Post & Email has concluded that every county grand jury, which issues indictments against its citizens for prosecution, is “rigged” with judicially hand-picked foremen who bypass the random selection and screening applied to other jurors.  However, trial jury members have also been found to have been placed on the jury in violation of TCA 22-2-314, which mandates a 24-month respite for anyone who has served on a Tennessee jury before serving again.

Tennessee media generally appears uninterested in or intimidated by the prospect of publicizing the deprivation of due process to its citizens which is ensured by corrupt grand juries, trial juries, judges, law enforcers, jailers, prosecutors, state legislators, and the state attorney general, among other entities.

On June 14, The Post & Email reported that another WTSP inmate, John McCloud, was beaten by four correction officers wearing Kevlar body armor and “hardened punching gloves.”  According to his mother, Rita Vickery, McCloud suffers from mental illness and will break things when frustrated.  The report The Post & Email received as to the cause of McCloud’s assault was that $150 deposited in his inmate account was taken in its entirety, in violation of TDOC regulations, to pay assessed fines; the maximum allowable amount is 50%.  McCloud reportedly broke a window after learning that all of the $150 gift had been taken by the TDOC.

Many Tennessee residents whose loved ones are incarcerated have observed that “poverty” appears to be a commonality among the prisoners, making them easy prey for corrupt public officials to exploit and retain in prison.

“Fitz, Capt. Jeffery Middlton – Sgt Marcus Agnew, and Corp Jones all four of these assailents are clearly seen pulling me in my wheelchair handcuffed into the emergency exam room in the medical bldg. without medical personel present the door being closed and all four individuals takeing turns beating me in the sides of my head untill blood was running out of my left eardrum,” Mayers wrote on page 2.

“There can be no justifiable reason for all four of these security personel pushing me in the exam room and closeing the door all this can be seen on WTSP viacom.  After this aggravated assault I was then put in solitary confinement in maximum security unable to make a meaningfull attorney phone call as well as only one time in six months to speak with my girlfriend on the phone,” he wrote on page 3.

Mayers then stated that last month, he was anticipating a parole board hearing when “Johnny Fitz and his green team…interd my cell, I was punch to the extreme right of my right eye, wich immediately started to swell and blackend, I was then asked was I sure that I wanted to go to the parole board, I stated dam right I do.”

However, Mayers reported that he was not allowed to attend the parole board hearing because he was “sidetracked to medical, wich issued a very lengthy examination and a so called investigation of this alleged assault.”

We hope to learn the results of the “investigation,” although the TDOC does not make public any documentation from its internal investigations.

Mayers’s parole hearing was rescheduled for December as indicated on a form dated July 7, 2016 with the notation that “2c: Offender Unable to Attend Due to Security Issues.”  To the right of that Mayers wrote, “do tell.”

On page 7, Mayers describes having been poisoned with an insecticide which he reported was “forced on me in an 8 x 12 cell with absolutely no ventilation on 3 different occassions.”

TCA 41-21-201 defines the responsibilities of a prison warden as “The warden is charged with the duty of treating the inmates with humanity and kindness and protecting them from harsh and cruel treatment and overwork.”

TCA 39-13-101 describes “assault” as:

(a) A person commits assault who:

(1) Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;

(2) Intentionally or knowingly causes another to reasonably fear imminent bodily injury; or

(3) Intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another and a reasonable person would regard the contact as extremely offensive or provocative.

TCA 39-12-302 states that when an individual “acts in concert” with others to commit a crime, the offense “shall be classified one (1) classification higher than if it was committed alone.”  Further, “(b) The indictment shall charge that the offense was committed while acting in concert with two (2) or more other persons.”

TCA 39-11-402 states that “A person is criminally responsible for an offense committed by the conduct of another, if:…”(3) Having a duty imposed by law or voluntarily undertaken to prevent commission of the offense and acting with intent to benefit in the proceeds or results of the offense, or to promote or assist its commission, the person fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent commission of the offense.”

WTSP Warden Jonathan Lebo will receive a copy of this article.

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