Seven months after inmates rioted and burned buildings at Northpoint Training Center, evidence in the first of more than 100 criminal cases will be presented later this month to a Boyle grand jury, according to Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Bottoms.
With no criminal charges filed yet, some of the 174 inmates who are being disciplined within the prison system on "administrative charges" are questioning the evidence used to keep them in segregation units for months.
Thirty-three inmates have already completed their administrative punishment, but another 146 remain in segregation "due to those charges or due to their current security threat to the facility," Justice Cabinet spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin said Friday.
Sixteen inmates who were transferred from the medium security facility near Danville to other state prisons after the riot have filed appeals to their administrative charges in various circuit courts, Brislin said. The Cabinet has asked that the appeals be dismissed, but the cases have not yet been heard.
Several relatives of other inmates who have not filed court appeals say they've asked lawmakers and Gov. Steve Beshear to let them see the evidence against those who allegedly played a role in the August 21 riot that destroyed six buildings and injured eight guards and eight inmates.
"My son's a perfect example of them not having clear-cut proof," said Dianna Boyd of Lexington.
Boyd said Thursday that her son Christopher Moberly has not been allowed to submit records that show he was using the phone in his dorm when he was alleged to have been outdoors yelling at corrections officers. He is being held in segregation at the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville, where he was moved after the riot.
Boyd said her son is eligible for parole in July and worries that his extended time in segregation will jeopardize his release. It's a fear held by many inmate relatives.
Mark Cheatham of Danville said he had talked to lawmakers and officials in the governor's office about his stepson Greg Reed. Cheatham said Reed was in a locked dorm at the time he was alleged to have been inciting the riot.
Sherri Reece of Shepherdsville said her son Michael Reece was under guard in a fenced area at a time that he is accused of stealing canteen items more than a football field away.
Suzette Raybeck of New Albany, Ind., said her son Jeremy Duree never left his dorm until corrections officers escorted him out but is being accused of burning down a shed.
Several inmates are being held in segregation long after they've served the sentences they received in disciplinary hearings, according to Raybeck. She has asked members of the General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary to investigate.
But Brislin said Cabinet officials are "satisfied" with how the administrative charges are being handled. "This has been an extensive investigation for a riot unprecedented in the history of the department that destroyed multiple buildings, did millions of dollars in damage and endangered the lives of all who were there as well as the public," she said.
However, a review team's investigative report on the riot expressed concerns that a delay in the investigation and a lack of documentation submitted by staff had compromised evidence.
Kentucky State Police tried to start an investigation immediately after order was restored at the prison, but were advised by a corrections official that the investigation would be handled internally, the report said. Several days later, staff members from the Justice Cabinet decided that KSP was the more appropriate agency to conduct the inquiry after all, the report said.
"After a few days, staff thoughts and observations became diluted and tended to be group think rather than individual thoughts and observations," said the report released to lawmakers in January.
The investigators also lamented the fact that most video cameras failed the evening of the riot. "Although not necessarily fatal, these failures have impeded the successful and timely conclusion to disciplinary and criminal investigations," the report said.
Although video cameras were destroyed, failed or obscured by smoke, Brislin said evidence includes eyewitness statements of correction officers and other staff that were collected by the morning after the riot.
Bottoms said he thought the criminal prosecution had moved quickly given a painstaking state police investigation involving hundreds of interviews. Inmates moved from Northpoint after the riot were scattered in prisons across the state, he said.
"State police detectives have made every effort to be diligent and fair to the inmates," he said.
The prosecutor said the first batch of arson cases should be heard by the grand jury March 22.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, said he is sending some complaints from relatives about administrative punishments to the Department of Public Advocacy, Kentucky's public defense program. Yonts said he thought some of the concerns about inmates being wrongfully accused could be valid.
Bishop Dennis Lyons, who heads Louisville's Gospel Missionary Church, said representatives of the church's prison ministry are conducting their own investigation. Lyons said he hopes to visit the segregation units where inmates from Northpoint are being held.