WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former Prince George’s County corrections officer Anthony McIntosh was arrested Thursday on federal charges stemming from the 2008 death of a jail inmate who had been accused of killing a county police officer.
A newly unsealed indictment accuses McIntosh, 48, of failing to help Ronnie White after finding the 19-year-old unresponsive and slumped in his jail cell and then trying to cover up the discovery by falsifying reports.
The strangulation death of White, who two days earlier had been arrested and charged with murder in the hit-and-run death of a county police officer, prompted an outcry from civil rights groups. It also raised concerns about the possibility of vigilante justice and helped focus attention on a spate of recent problems at the county jail.
McIntosh was arrested in New York City as the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging him with a federal civil rights violation and with two counts of falsifying records in a federal investigation.
The indictment says McIntosh found White unresponsive in his county detention center cell on June 29, 2008, and failed to seek medical care for him or get the attention of other jail officials. Prosecutors say he falsified a witness statement and incident report, claiming that another corrections officer had found White and failed to mention that he previously discovered him in the cell.
The indictment says he “endorsed a statement falsely claiming that he did not know what was going on” when another corrections officer told him that White had been found unresponsive.
The indictment does not shed much new light on the circumstances of White’s death, which triggered state and federal investigations and a wrongful death lawsuit from the man’s family, and it does not identify who caused the death.
White had been placed by himself in maximum security after being arrested and charged with the hit-and-run death of Cpl. Richard Findley during a traffic stop in Laurel. Authorities said White struck and dragged Findley, who was part of team investigating car thefts, with a truck that had been reported stolen.
On the morning of June 29, authorities say, White was found on the floor of his cell with no pulse. Jail medical staff who treated him reported no visible signs of trauma on his body, and he was declared dead an hour later at a hospital.
Officials said at the time that seven guards had access to White at the time of his death, as did an unspecified number of supervisors. They said he had received medical and psychological assessments that did not uncover any problems, and that guards had checked on him every half-hour.
The death was ruled a homicide by strangulation and asphyxiation.
Jack Johnson, then county executive, said at a news conference the day after White’s death that he thought the death was “unrelated to any act by the Prince George’s County police department.”
He also said: “If we have vigilante justice, our society will fall apart.”
In 2009, White’s family filed a lawsuit against the county, McIntosh and two other guards who were on duty at the time of his death. The civil suit seeks more than $150 million in damages.
McIntosh has a court appearance Friday in New York, but no court date has yet been set in Maryland. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of depriving White of his civil rights while acting under the color of law and up to 20 years on each of the two counts of falsifying records.
Court records don’t show an attorney for McIntosh, though a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Maryland says he’s currently being represented by the federal public defender in New York.
A man who answered the phone at a Brooklyn, N.Y., listing for McIntosh hung up on a reporter.
A lawyer who has represented the White family did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The Justice Department declined further comment.