Nine state prison guards charged in inmate beating probe

Nine current and former guards at a state prison in Hagerstown were charged Wednesday in a federal indictment that alleges they conspired to assault an inmate and covered up the incident.

The U.S. Department of Justice indictment refers to two separate beatings of an inmate, identified only as "K.D.," in the same weekend in March 2008. K.D. was beaten so badly that he had to be taken to a hospital, the indictment says. None of the current and former prison officers was actually charged with assault.

The charges included obstruction of justice for one lieutenant at the prison who the justice department says used a magnetic device to destroy surveillance tapes that captured the beating.

The beatings of the inmate at medium-security Roxbury Correctional Institution in 2008, coming at the same time as an alleged inmate beating at maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institute in Cumberland, led to a high-profile investigation and scrutiny of the state prison system that year. Two dozen officers at both prisons were fired or put on leave amid the investigation, though two guards were later reinstated.

The Department of Justice says K.D. was assaulted first during the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at Roxbury on March 8, 2008. In one indictment, Correctional Officer Walter Steele and Lieutenant Jason Weicht face conspiracy charges related to covering up the assault. Former Correctional Officers James Kalbflesh and Jeremy McCusker face civil rights and conspiracy charges.

Weicht was also charged with obstruction of justice. The justice department said his actions included "encouraging officers to get together to get their stories straight, providing home telephone numbers for the involved officers so that they could arrange for a cover-up meeting, and giving an officer books on interrogation techniques so that he would be prepared to mislead investigators."

Steele faces two more counts of providing false and misleading information to investigators.

A second federal indictment stems from a second assault on K.D. the following morning, during the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. It was after that beating, in which K.D. was kicked and punched in his cell "in order to punish K.D. for a prior incident involving another officer" that the inmate was sent to the hospital, according to the Department of Justice.

Lt. Edwin Stigile and former Correctional Officers Tyson Hinckle, Reginald Martin and Michael Morgan were charged with conspiring to have officers assault K.D. during the day shift. Sgt. Josh Hummer and Hinckle, Martin and Morgan also were each charged with a civil rights violation, and Stigile was charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying surveillance tapes that recorded the beating.

The maximum sentences for the prison officers range from 25 years to 55 years.

Dustin Norris, a former correctional officer at Roxbury, pleaded guilty to conspiring to assault the inmate and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, the justice department also announced Wednesday.

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