On November 2, 2000, a federal grand jury indicted seven officers of the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. The indictment, superseded in February 2001, charged the defendants with one count of conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate by falsely justifying uses of force ...
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On November 2, 2000, a federal grand jury indicted seven officers of the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. The indictment, superseded in February 2001, charged the defendants with one count of conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate by falsely justifying uses of force against inmates; the remaining nine counts alleged physical assaults of individual inmates, depriving them of their Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. The charges were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado under 18 U.S.C. § 241 and 242.
On December 15, 2000, each of the seven officers, represented by private counsel, entered "not guilty" pleas. Days before the trial was set to begin in April 2003, the prosecutors asked the court for a continuance, because a key witness was ill and unable to come to court to testify. The court (Judge Wiley Y. Daniel) denied the motion, and the prosecutors appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of the prosecution's motion, holding that outside circumstances preventing the witness from testifying did not constitute exclusion. U.S. v. LaVallee, 61 Fed. Appx. 631 (10th Cir. 2003).
The trial lasted two months and included testimony from guards, former guards, inmates, prison administrators, and three of the defendants. On June 23 and 24, 2003, after ten days of deliberation, the jury returned verdicts. Two of the seven inmates were convicted of the conspiracy charge. The same two defendants, Mike LaVallee and Rod Schultz, were also convicted of physically assaulting individual inmates. In addition, a third defendant, Robert Verbickas, was convicted of physically assaulting an inmate. The remaining four defendants were acquitted of all charges.
LaVallee, Schultz, and Verbickas each moved to be released from jail pending sentencing. After a hearing on July 1, 2003, the court (Judge Daniel) found that the defendants' conviction of a violent crime precluded their release pending sentencing and denied the motions on July 2, 2003. U.S. v. LaVallee, 269 F. Supp. 1297 (D. Colo. 2003). The defendants appealed the District Court's decision, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed the denial of their motion to be released pending sentencing on September 2, 2003. U.S. v. Verbickas, 75 Fed. Appx. 705 (10th Cir. 2003).
On November 21, 2003, the court (Judge Daniel) sentenced LaVallee and Schultz to incarceration terms of three years and five months; Verbickas' term was two-and-one-half years.
The defendants' appeal is ongoing.Laura Uberti - 06/01/2006