CDC Chief Could Face Charges
Ex-prison chief could face charges
Report says he and top aide foiled probe
A federally appointed investigator concluded Thursday that the former head of California's Department of Corrections and a top deputy thwarted an investigation into prison guard misconduct and is recommending that they face charges of criminal contempt -- charges that could lead to time behind bars.
Edward Alameida, who resigned last month as director of prisons, and Thomas Moore, a former chief deputy, improperly quashed a perjury investigation of guards at Pelican Bay State Prison and then misled a federal inquiry of the case, according to John Hagar, a special master assigned to a federal judge who has ordered that conditions improve at the maximum security prison.
A sweeping summary of corruption and cover-up among high-level administrators, Hagar's 71-page report depicts a department that has lost control of its efforts to police rogue correctional officers, in part because of the influence of the state's politically powerful prison guards union. The result, according to Hagar, is a systemic code of silence among guards wherein "good officers turn bad.''
"Rather than (prison administrators) correcting the prisoners, some correctional officers acquire a prisoner's mentality: They form gangs, align with gangs and spread the code of silence,'' according to Hagar.
Hagar is in charge of overseeing reforms mandated for Pelican Bay by a 1995 federal court ruling that found numerous civil rights violations at the prison. Nicknamed Skeleton Bay by inmates, the facility in Del Norte County has been roiled by allegations of prisoner beatings for nearly a decade.
But the report released Thursday suggests major problems in Sacramento, where department administration has "turned its head'' when confronted with allegations of wrong-doing -- endangering honest officers and inmates, according to Hagar.
Alameida and Moore are under fire for actions they took last year to end probes that were launched after a federal trial in which two Pelican Bay guards, Edward Powers and Jose Garcia, were convicted of beating inmates and setting up the stabbing of an inmate. Federal prosecutors turned over information to state corrections officials indicating that at least three guards lied under oath during the trial about their knowledge of Powers' and Garcia's behavior.
Cases against the three guards were considered strong by some prison system and federal officials, but all three probes were shut down. Hagar has spent the last six months investigating why the cases were closed.
Testimony by the prison department's internal affairs agents and lawyers suggest that Alameida ended the perjury probes in a meeting in his office, where one corrections employee contends that Alameida indicated he wanted to "make this (the cases) go away.'' The meeting in Alameida's office came just days after a telephone conversation with a vice president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
The union, which is one of the largest contributors to political campaigns in the state, has often been accused of using its clout to interfere in department operations.
Criminal and administrative investigations concerning misconduct at Pelican Bay "have been disrupted over the last 10 years by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association,'' Hagar wrote. He cited evidence of document tampering and efforts by union officials to convince guards not to talk to internal affairs agents during past investigations.
Hagar's report was met by immediate calls for reform from two state senators who have been investigating procedures within California's $5 billion prison system.
"I'm literally stunned. This corroborates my worst nightmares about what's going on inside our institutions,'' said state Sen. Jackie Speier, D- Hillsborough, chairwoman of a Senate government oversight committee.
"When corrupt people are watching over corrupt people, the only thing that results is corruption,'' Speier said.
Speier and Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, will hold hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on several botched investigations into wrong-doing by prison guards. Both senators say they will call on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to revise a budget proposal he made last week to eliminate an independent state agency that investigates prisons.
"We must have an independent watchdog,'' Romero said.
Corrections officials, however, say they have begun an extensive review of policies surrounding guard investigations and can run a strong internal affairs unit. Schwarzenegger's new secretary of youth and adult corrections, Rod Hickman, wants to develop an "investigative process that has credibility and is thorough and fair,'' said Tip Kindel, a spokesman for Hickman.
A union official called Hagar's suggestion that the union was interfering in internal affairs cases "ridiculous.''
"We don't spend our time or money defending bad cops,'' said Lance Corcoran, vice president of the union. "That's not in our interest.''
Hagar recommended criminal contempt charges against Alameida and Moore in part because of a letter they sent to him explaining why the cases were dropped. The letter includes false information, Hagar wrote, including suggesting one of the key witnesses, a Pelican Bay inmate, was mentally ill. The inmate's files indicate that is not true, Hagar wrote.
Along with criminal investigations of Alameida and Moore, Hagar also recommended federal prosecutors pursue a criminal perjury case against Moore and civil contempt charges against the department until it overhauls its internal affairs policies.
The department will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations before Hagar sends a final report to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson. Henderson will determine which, if any, charges to pursue.
Alameida and Moore could face fines or time in prison.
Moore has been reassigned from his previous duties as the director of the prison department's internal affairs office to a job in the parole department.
Alameida resigned as director but remains a department employee, said a spokesman for the department. He is on vacation and will be reassigned to a new job when he returns, said Russ Heimrich.
Neither Alameida nor Moore could be reached for comment.
Romero said she will demand that Alameida and Moore pay for their own legal defense.
E-mail Mark Martin at email@example.com.
©2004 San Francisco Chronicle
Did prisons chief let guards call shots?
Ed Alameida ran the California Department of Corrections for two years, but with the department under scrutiny and an overhaul in the works, the question he faces now is whether anybody was running him.
A special master working under a federal judge charged earlier this year that Alameida took direction from the prison officers' union - the leaders of which effectively approved his appointment as director - in shutting down a perjury investigation into three prison cops.
And, in a departure from usual California prison politics, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has distanced itself from Alameida, suggesting he was a failed leader who lacked integrity and was improperly influenced by the 30,000-member California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
The special master's draft report, released Jan. 15, recommended Alameida be held in criminal contempt for yielding to the union on a perjury probe. The perjury allegations arose from a federal trial of two correctional officers convicted of setting up inmate beatings at Pelican Bay State Prison. The final report is expected within a month.
In the final version, according to sources, Special Master John Hagar is expected to keep the contempt recommendation for Alameida, 55. If the report does so, and if the charge is upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson in San Francisco, Alameida could find himself on the other side of the bars, serving a five-year federal prison term.
State Sen. Gloria Romero, the East Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the joint legislative committee overseeing prisons, said the Hagar report, and the Schwarzenegger administration's stance, signal a new era of prison politics in California, one marked by diminished union influence.
Unfortunately for Alameida, it is dawning at his expense.
"I can take no great pleasure in seeing the demise of somebody," said Romero, who demanded Alameida's firing a month before he resigned his director's position in December. "He was just a cover for the electeds to hide behind. But with the Hagar report, we were forced to look at the truth."
Alameida, through his lawyers, declined to be interviewed. But David Tristan, who served under Alameida as chief deputy director, predicted dire consequences for the state if Hagar's view holds.
"Now, in every single lawsuit in which inmates claim they were wronged at the hands of the department, it is almost irrelevant whether the allegations are true or not, because the court master has said the administration from the top down is part of a cover-up," the now-retired Tristan said. "It places the department and the state of California in an extremely tenuous situation."
Alameida's lawyers have argued he was not beholden to the union and didn't sign off on ending the perjury probe until key underlings told him - mistakenly - the investigation was compplete.
In February, his attorneys filed their objections, deflecting blame, accusing Hagar of misstating the evidence and overstepping his authority.
Some employees who worked under Alameida, such as Tristan, said he resisted the union's demands. They said, for example, he unsuccessfully fought the union's effort to persuade Gov. Gray Davis to get rid of 32 internal-affairs captains -the supervisors of investigations into its members. They said he also strongly opposed the 2001 labor agreement in which CCPOA members won a five-year, 37 percent raise.
But at legislative hearings in January, Schwarzenegger's appointee in charge of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, Rod Hickman, sided with the special master and against Alameida.
In Hickman's view, the special master's draft described a "failure of departmental leadership to oversee the internal affairs process." He also criticized the union, telling lawmakers he was working to stop "manipulation by any improper outside influence."
Hickman said he never read the objections submitted by Alameida's lawyers. He dismissed the suggestion the administration is distancing itself from the former director. "Alameida had his process to go through and the agency has its process to go through with the federal court," he said.
The special master is a product of a 1995 court decision in which inmates rights' advocates won policy changes in the use of force, internal discipline and medical care at Pelican Bay, the North Coast prison that contains some of the state's most violent inmates.
Alameida is an unlikely fall guy.
He never worked as a line officer in the department. He joined the prison system in 1973 as an accountant. He worked his way up from the business side, gaining a reputation as a numbers expert.
In 1991, he became chief deputy warden at Folsom State Prison, and in 1996 he was chosen warden at Deuel Vocational Institution.
Alameida was selected CDC's assistant deputy director in 2000. When the director's job came open in 2001, former Youth and Adult Correctional Agency Secretary Robert Presley recommended Alameida.
Davis considered at least two other candidates, sources said, before settling on Alameida. CCPOA, which contributed approximately $2 million to the Democratic governor's two winning campaigns, approved the appointment.
According to the union's former president, Don Novey, Davis ran Alameida's name past him at a reception following the union's Governor's Cup Golf Tournament at Pebble Beach in the spring of 2001.
"We're up there talking on the podium," Novey said. "He said, 'I'm going through this list. What do you think?' "
Novey said Davis showed him the list that included Tristan and Hickman as Alameida's top deputies.
"OK. Fine," Novey recalled telling Davis.
The union, he said, liked Alameida because he'd been a "decent warden" at Deuel and had a reputation for treating his staff fairly.
Novey said his exchange with Davis didn't amount to exercising undue influence on Alameida's behalf. "Politicians only listen to you to make you feel good," said Novey, a consultant to the union.
Davis, through a spokesman, declined to comment.
The union enjoyed major successes during the Davis years - the centerpiece being the contract projected to cost taxpayers $2 billion over five years. The agreement also provided the rank-and-file with substantial new rights in obtaining evidence from the department in internal and criminal investigations.
Tristan said Alameida argued vehemently against the deal during the union's negotiations with the Department of Personnel Administration.
But on another front - the Pelican Bay perjury investigation - communication and, for the union, results, flowed smoothly between Alameida and the CCPOA, according to the special master.
Hagar has accused the Department of Corrections of bungling the probe, closing it at the union's behest and lying to the special master by telling him the case had no merit.
The perjury allegations against the three Pelican Bay officers stemmed from their testimony at a federal trial in San Francisco. At the conclusion of the trial in June 2002, the jury convicted Sgt. Michael Powers and Officer Jose Garcia of arranging the beatings of child molesters at Pelican Bay in the early to mid-1990s. Both have appealed.
The perjury investigation came to a head March 20, 2003. Corrections investigators and lawyers decided to refer the case on one officer to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office for a criminal filing and wrap up the administrative cases on the two others.
Four days after the meeting, the special master said, CCPOA Vice President Chuck Alexander telephoned Alameida.
"Alexander asked whether the director knew the status of that case, to which the director replied 'no,' " Hagar wrote in his draft report.
Hagar concluded that after talking with Alexander, Alameida arranged a meeting with other top CDC officials to discuss the investigation. At a meeting March 27, 2003, Alameida and his top brass concluded the investigation was complete and the only task was to determine how to make it go away, the special master said.
But the investigation wasn't close to done. The internal-affairs detective assigned to the case had interviewed only two witnesses in nine months, according to testimony at Hagar's hearings.
Still, Alameida ordered a fact-finding letter be sent to the special master to inform him about the probe. The letter concluded that "based on lack of sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation, this matter is being closed."
In response, the special master launched his investigation in July into the agency's handling of the case. Through the late summer and fall, he conducted the hearings in Judge Henderson's courtroom that led to his Jan. 15 report.
The draft report accused Alameida and Thomas Moore, at the time head of the department's Office of Investigative Services, of "organizing and condoning a cover-up" of the department's violations of court orders resulting from the 1995 Pelican Bay decision. The special master recommended Moore be investigated for perjury for testimony he gave at Hagar's hearings. Moore's lawyers said their client never intentionally misled anyone at the proceedings.
In addition, the special master accused Alameida of conspiring to send him a false and misleading letter on how the perjury investigation ended.
Hagar also wrote that the union has shown a pattern of interfering in criminal and internal investigations. Department of Corrections leaders, Hagar said, treated the union's alleged incursions with "an attitude of benign neglect."
In court papers, Alameida's attorneys said Hagar's recommendation for a contempt citation against the former director "is not supported by the record."
One of their arguments was that Alameida talked to the union before it learned of the status of the investigation, not after - so it wasn't in a position to influence Alameida.
Union officials denied they influenced the outcome, and Alexander, the CCPOA vice president, blasted Hagar for not calling him to testify at the special master's hearings.
"Mr. Hagar's assumptions are inaccurate, and he would have found that out had he bothered to ask me," Alexander said.
Alameida, for now, is bearing the brunt of the Schwarzenegger administration's prison reform movement. He will retire from the department, effective July 12, his lawyers said.
Hickman said the top priority is to establish the new Office of Independent Review. In his revised budget, the governor provided $4.9 million for the unit that is designed to monitor corrections' internal-affairs operations.
"We want a process that is clear and transparent ... so there can be
no question if somebody makes a phone call that affects the outcome of
an investigation or disciplinary process," Hickman said. "The perception
of that is problematic."
The Bee's Andy Furillo can be reached at (916) 321-1141 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Nov 17, 7:45 PM EST
Former California corrections chief avoids court sanctions
By DAVID KRAVETS
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The former head of the California Department of Corrections should be fined for dismantling a prison-guard perjury probe, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
But U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson spared Edward Alameida monetary sanctions because of "the dramatic deterioration" of his health and because the 32-year department veteran resigned from the prison system last year.
Alameida stepped down amid accusations that he scuttled a probe into alleged perjury by prison guards in inmate abuse cases. In June, Alameida notified Henderson that his resignation created the onset of mental-health problems requiring treatment.
Henderson is reviewing department practices as part of a civil rights lawsuit brought by inmates 13 years ago.
Henderson wrote Wednesday that Alameida "shut down investigations" to please the prison guards' union and "engaged in gross abuses of the public trust."
An investigator Henderson appointed to assist him, John Hagar, had recommended that Henderson commence contempt-of-court proceedings against Alameida.
Henderson said Wednesday he would not hold Alameida in criminal contempt, which could have resulted in prison time, because Alameida did not violate a court order to commence an inquiry. The previous order demanded that the California Department of Corrections undertake the perjury investigation but did not specifically name Alameida, Henderson ruled.
"We're obviously pleased Judge Henderson found no basis for bringing criminal contempt charges," said Alameida's attorney, David Bancroft. "He did not disobey any court order that directly applied to him."
Henderson suggested that it might have been an oversight that his order, as written, could not hold Alameida "fully accountable."
More than two years ago, in response to Henderson's calls for the CDC to conduct a perjury probe, Alameida commenced an investigation into whether guards committed perjury in court when fellow Pelican Bay guards were on trial for abusing inmates. The investigation ended abruptly, and no guards were held accountable.
Alameida's attempted probe began after guards Jose Ramon Garcia and Edward Michael Powers were convicted and sentenced to seven and six years in prison, respectively. Between 1992 and 1996, they solicited inmates to attack child molesters, sex offenders and other inmates they disliked at the maximum-security facility in Crescent City.
Following revelations that the perjury investigation was dismantled, Henderson and Hagar concluded that the department had no effective method for investigating inmate abuse and that it was overly influenced by the prison guard union. Further, they found that a culture fostering a code of silence was rampant in the department.
Henderson noted Wednesday the department has been taking internal steps to improve its oversight of prison guards and said the corrections agency should not be taken over by the federal government, which he was considering.
"There's a commitment to remedy the problems and they see that commitment," CDC spokesman J.P. Tremblay said of Henderson's decision.
The CDC, with a nearly $6 billion annual budget, supervises 161,000 inmates.
Still, the judge demanded that former CDC chief investigator Thomas Moore appear before Henderson to explain why he should not be fined for telling the court that at least three guards were cleared of perjury even when no investigation took place.
Henderson said Moore was being treated different than Alameida because he still works for the CDC, now in a more limited role in its Parole Division, and because he did not inform the court of any ailments.
Moore's attorney, Paul Goyette, did not return calls for comment. Moore could not be immediately reached.
The case is Madrid v. Woodford, 90-3094.
Editors: David Kravets has been covering state and federal courts for more than a decade.
Three Strikes Legal - Index