Six New Jersey corrections officers are facing charges after the assault of an inmate at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility.
The incident occurred on April 8, 2020 at the youth facility in Chesterfield, N.J. when the officers removed an inmate from his cell using pepper spray and an “unjustified” amount of force shortly after midnight, according to officials.
The victim screamed in pain and left the cell covered in blood. He was given an inhaler and oxygen in the infirmary and treated for lacerations on his face.
The officers filed false reports to the Department of Justice to justify the use of force claiming the inmate “refused to cuff up” and attempted to “mule kick” them, officials said. Video and photo evidence contradict the officers’ statements.
“Correctional police officers are entrusted with great authority over the inmates in their custody, and when they abuse that power, they must be held accountable,” Platkin said in a news release.
Correctional Police Sgt. Michael Emmert, 37, of Toms River, N.J., who allegedly pepper-sprayed the inmate twice and was in charge of the officers removing the inmate from his cell, faces aggravated assault and tampering with records charges.
The senior correction officers charged with tampering with public records include: Christopher Toth, 37, of New Egypt, N.J., Raymond Quinones, 43, of Beachwood, N.J., Michael Gaines, 56, of Willingboro, N.J., Mark Sadlowski, Jr., 44, of Sewell, N.J., and Michael Ambrozaitis, 58, of Southampton, N.J.
Stuart Alterman, an attorney for Sadlowski and counsel to the union that represents correctional officers, told the Associated Press his client as well as the others are not guilty.
“This is an unfortunate set of events where senior correctional officers were doing their duty and attempting to do their duty and protecting themselves from a very dangerous inmate,” Alterman said.
William Sullivan, the president of the labor union representing the correctional officers, told the Associated Press that the officers acted professionally and did “exactly what was required of them per policy.”
“This investigation took over two years. They worked every day and had not one negative interaction at work since this alleged incident,” Sullivan said.
The Burlington County facility is a minimum-security prison housing nearly 1,000 inmates, where they participate in vocational training or academic education, according to the Department of Corrections.
Third-degree aggravated assault charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The third-degree tampering with public records charge carries a sentence of three to five years in prison, including a mandatory two-year term of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $15,000.
“When corrections officers abuse their authority, as alleged here, we will ensure that they are fully investigated and prosecuted,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability is committed to ensuring justice for all by maintaining the highest standard of public service through effective investigations and prosecutions.”
With Post wires.