Watchdog

Northpoint guard identified more than 100 inmates in riot

Boyle County Detention Center of mug of Jesus
Cabrera, the Northpoint corrections officer who was arrested.
Boyle County Detention Center of mug of Jesus Cabrera, the Northpoint corrections officer who was arrested.

Northpoint Training Center corrections officer Jesus Cabrera identified more than 100 inmates who he said participated in a 2009 riot at the prison, according to state documents.

Two defense attorneys who represent inmates indicted after the riot said Wednesday that Cabrera's July 28 arrest for bringing contraband — 12 blue pills — into the facility damages his credibility and will be an issue in the criminal cases.

Additionally, family members of inmates who have spent months in segregation and were denied parole after Cabrera identified them are calling for an independent investigation.

Five of Northpoint's six dormitories were damaged in the fiery riot on Aug. 21 at the prison near Burgin in Central Kentucky. In addition, eight corrections officers and eight inmates were injured, and five buildings were destroyed.

More than 170 inmates who were identified by corrections officers working that night were disciplined. Ten inmates have been indicted for riot-related activities in Boyle Circuit Court.

Even before Cabrera's arrest, members of inmates' families had expressed concerns to the state Department of Corrections about the identifications he made and asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate them. Department of Justice officials did not immediately respond to questions Wednesday.

Cabrera is listed in state documents as identifying at least six of 10 inmates who have been indicted.

Theodore Shouse, an attorney representing inmate Aaron Fisk, said he filed a motion to get the personnel records of Cabrera and two other corrections officers and that he wants to see the state's internal investigation involving Cabrera's arrest.

"I'm very concerned that an officer who claims to have identified over 100 inmates in this event has within a matter of months himself been charged" with promoting contraband, Shouse said. "It clearly causes anyone to doubt his credibility."

Fisk is charged with first-degree arson, first-degree riot and being a persistent felony offender. Shouse said Fisk did not participate in the riot.

Stacy Coontz, who is representing two inmates Cabrera identified, said she and other public defenders are examining about 3,000 pages of state documents.

"It's concerning that someone who is, in some cases, the only witness against someone has also been arrested himself and charged with a crime," said Coontz. "It goes to his credibility."

State police witnesses

Commonwealth's Attorney Richie Bottoms said this week that "none of the pending cases rely on one guard's testimony."

KSP Detective Mark Young is the grand jury witness listed in all the cases in which there have been indictments.

"Charges that have been brought reflect on the integrity of the Kentucky State Police," Bottoms said.

At the Herald-Leader's request, Department of Corrections officials reviewed a KSP list that identified 124 inmates for possible criminal indictment in the riot. Although it appeared that Cabrera was the only witness in several of the cases, corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said the list provides space for only one staff member's name, even though there might be multiple staff witnesses in the case.

Lamb said a review shows that in the three cases on the list solely prepared by Cabrera, "there is no evidence to refute the credibility of Cabrera as a witness."

The internal affairs division of the corrections department investigated the administrative charges that were filed against inmates in the riot, while the Kentucky State Police determined criminal charges, Lamb said.

"Each case was handled fairly and impartially, with actions taken against those whose activity was directly witnessed by staff members," Lamb said.

Mug-book IDs

A Sept. 8 state police report said Cabrera was working in the visiting room when he heard the first call reporting a fire in the dormitory and initially helped evacuate inmates.

As he moved about the prison yard, he began to identify inmates. Cabrera and other corrections officers were then chased by inmates, and one of them, identified as Kurt Smith, threw a piece of concrete at Cabrera, striking him on the chin, state police documents said. He was treated at the scene and continued to help quell the riot, documents said.

Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced Aug. 3 to five years in prison for third-degree assault and five years for first-degree riot, to be served concurrently.

"Cabrera was able to provide an extensive list of inmates involved in the riot and their actions," said the KSP report whose author is identified as detective Monte Owens.

"Cabrera advised that he knew many of the inmates. When the yard was secured, Cabrera sat down and made notes of what he saw and their actions. He also used the institution mug book to identify those whose names he did not know," the report said.

Owens is also the detective who arrested Cabrera on July 28.

"He was confronted on the prison grounds, and he had drugs on him," Owens said of Cabrera in an interview last week.

The blue pills are thought to be the prescription drug diazepam, which is used to relieve anxiety and is a muscle relaxer, according to a police report.

Guard to be fired

Cabrera waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday in Boyle District Court, so the charge now goes to a grand jury.

Cabrera, wearing a yellow Boyle County jail jump suit, said little during his brief appearance in court. His attorney, Jackie Horn of Lexington, would discuss only the terms of Cabrera's bond.

District Judge Jeff Dotson agreed to reduce Cabrera's bond to $1,000 but said Cabrera must look for a job and meet several other conditions.

Department of Corrections officials have notified Cabrera that they intend to dismiss him.

Meanwhile, Suzette Raybeck, one of the inmate family members who is asking for an independent review, said corrections officials should "stand up, admit that our loved ones were unjustly punished — physically, mentally and emotionally — and we want reparation for the harms done to them."

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