Court officer says Calif. prison department corruption probe a sham
SAN FRANCISCO - A promise by the Corrections Department director to investigate whether guards committed perjury in inmate abuse trials "was a sham which high-ranking CDC officials never intended to follow," a court-appointed examiner said in a report.
The 71-page report by a court-appointed monitor of the department's own internal affairs practices also recommended that a federal judge charge the agency's former director, Edward Alameida, and the department's chief investigator with contempt of court - a charge that could result in days or months of prison time if proven.
Alameida resigned from the California Department of Corrections last month amid allegations he impeded investigations into allegations that Pelican Bay State Prison guards committed perjury in inmate-abuse federal trials. The Gov. Gray Davis appointee emphatically denied the allegations.
The report to U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said Alameida succumbed to pressure from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the state's most powerful labor union, and shut down investigations of inmate abuse "well before their completion" and lied about it in court.
The agency had promised Henderson two years ago that it would investigate whether guards committed perjury in court when fellow Pelican Bay guards were on trial for abusing inmates. The promise came after Pelican Bay 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, which houses about 3,200 inmates.
The corrections department, under Alameida's leadership, promised it would investigate and fire guards that committed perjury or were involved in abusing inmates.
That did not happen, the report said.
"The failures of the post Powers investigation are also illustrative of a pattern of conduct in which CDC officials at the highest level demonstrate an unwillingness and inability to investigate and discipline serious abuses of force by correctional officers," wrote John Hagar, the court-appointed attorney who is investigating the department at the judge's request.
Alameida said he was "particularly disturbed by allegations that I interfered with an investigation or investigations, allegations I emphatically deny."
He testified in Henderson's court here last month that the CDC started the perjury and abuse probe with about 40 cases targeting Pelican Bay guards and staff, but none of them were deemed worthy of administrative action.
"I didn't shut down any investigation," Alameida testified.
Henderson neither set a court hearing nor indicated whether he would follow Hagar's recommendations Thursday.
The case is Madrid v. Rimmer, 90-3094.
Three Strikes Legal - Index