BALTIMORE (AP) — A Maryland correctional officer charged in a federal prison brutality probe shirked his duty to stop the beating and get medical help for the badly injured prisoner, a prosecutor said in her opening statement Thursday.
Sgt. Josh Hummer contends, thought, that he saw no misconduct when he looked inside Kenneth Davis’ cell nearly six years ago at the medium-security Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown. All Hummer saw as he wandered by, looking for a pair of lost gloves, was an officer squatting down to talk to Davis, lying beneath his bunk with his face to the wall, defense attorney Clarke Ahlers told the U.S. District Court jury.
“When he looked in the cell, he did not see a standard-of-conduct violation,” Ahlers said in an opening statement spiced by a Bible quote and Civil War references. He likened Hummer to the innocent victims of Union Gen. William Sherman’s scorched-earth march through the South.
Prosecutor Christine Siscaretti painted a much different picture of Hummer’s role in the 2008 incident. She said several former co-workers will testify during the two-week trial that Hummer was present during the beating and told them when the defenseless inmate had “had enough.” Afterward, Hummer and the others lied to investigators about the incident, Siscaretti said.
“He stood there and watched as his subordinates beat a defenseless man,” she said.
Hummer’s is the first trial stemming from indictments of 15 current or former guards on charges they conspired to systematically beat Davis over two successive shifts for hitting an officer, and then covered up their involvement.
Davis suffered a broken nose and fractures in his back and ribs, Siscaretti said.
Twelve defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other offenses. Two more await trial.
Nine Roxbury officers, not including Hummer, were charged in state court shortly after the beating. The only two convicted took plea deals, defying what one called “the brotherhood of silence” to testify against co-workers.
Hummer kept working until early last year, when he was suspended without pay following his February indictment, Ahlers said.
Davis, 47, of Baltimore, was serving a 19-year sentence for robbery when he was assaulted. He was released in October 2012.
Federal prosecutors said in a filing earlier this month that Davis received about $100,000 to settle an administrative complaint he had filed against state authorities, including several of the indicted officers.
The beat-down was one of two major scandals that bookended Gary D. Maynard’s nearly seven-year tenure as secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Davis was assaulted a year after Maynard took over. Fourteen Roxbury officers, not including Hummer, lost their jobs in firings that union officials called a publicity ploy.
The federal convictions have largely affirmed Maynard’s actions in that case but a later scandal proved embarrassing. Maynard resigned in December after federal prosecutors indicted 44 people, including 27 correctional officers, for conspiring to bring contraband cellphones, drugs and tobacco into the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center.
Gov. Martin O’Malley, who hired Maynard in 2007, has said Maynard approached federal authorities about corruption at the Baltimore facility and worked with them in rooting it out.
On Monday, O’Malley proposed measures to improve safety and security at the state’s correctional facilities. His budget includes $4.1 million to hire 100 new correctional officers, $637,000 for officer training and $788,000 for security cameras. He also aims to beef up an internal investigations unit and install technology render contraband cell phones useless at Baltimore detention facilities.
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