BALTIMORE — An irate federal judge sentenced two former Maryland correctional officers to 2 1/2 years in prison Monday for conspiring in the severe beating of an inmate to punish him for having punched a guard in the nose in 2008.
Lanny Harris, 41, of Martinsburg, W.Va., and Philip Mayo, 42, of Randolph, N.Y., are among 15 former Roxbury Correctional Institution workers convicted in the federal case, and the first to be sentenced.
Harris and May could have faced up to five years in prison each.
U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar reserved his harshest comments for state prison managers, wondering aloud why guards at the prison near Hagerstown thought it was OK to brutalize inmate Kenneth Davis. Davis suffered a broken nose, back and ribs from being beaten by officers on three successive shifts under an unwritten code of retaliation prosecutors called “the Roxbury way.”
“How in God’s name did this culture evolve to the point where officers on three different shifts, including supervisors, came to the conclusion … that the appropriate solution was raw, crude violence?” Bredar asked from the bench.
“Where was the leadership of this institution and of this state department?” he said.
Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the officers involved did not follow the correct code of conduct and failed their professional responsibilities. He said the department took swift and decisive action within days of the attack, resulting in the termination or retirement of 22 officers.
Harris and Mayo each pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count after they were charged in February 2013. Their lawyers emphasized their client’s willingness to acknowledge guilt. Harris’ lawyer asked for one year and one day. Mayo’s asked for no jail time at all.
Bredar pointed out that both men had kept silent about the attack for five years until federal investigators uncovered their criminal involvement.
Harris, a former sergeant, approved a plan for other officers to assault Davis. He then helped them coordinate their lies to investigators as part of a cover-up that included erasing incriminating surveillance video.
Mayo held Davis down while officers on the first shift of attackers kicked and punched him. He shielded Davis’ face, at least partly to prevent obvious injuries that would have raised questions.
Federal prosecutors said in a filing that Davis received about $100,000 to settle an administrative complaint against the state stemming from the assault. Attorney Michael McGowan, who represented Davis in those proceedings, said Monday that he doubted Davis would consider the guards’ sentences appropriate punishment.
“If you were severely beaten multiple times over an extended period of time by the people who were responsible for your safety, and then they lied about it, would you think that that was enough time?” McGowan asked in an emailed response to questions from The Associated Press.
Four other former officers are scheduled for sentencing this week. Other sentencing hearings are scheduled through July.
Two other officers pleaded guilty to state charges and were sentenced to probation in 2010 after defying what one called a “brotherhood of silence” to testify against co-workers. Of seven others charged in state court, five were acquitted by juries, one had charges dropped before trial and one had charges dropped after his trial ended in a hung jury.
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