2 guards are suspended for breach of security

January 19, 1993|By Jay Apperson and Eric Siegel | Jay Apperson and Eric Siegel,Staff Writers

Although corrections officials had identified Dontay Carter a a security problem, two apparent breaches of policy led to the convicted murderer's escape yesterday from a Baltimore courthouse.

Two armed security guards assigned to watch the East Baltimore teen-ager failed to follow policies requiring them to keep inmates within their sight and to check a bathroom before allowing an inmate to use it. As a result, they were suspended without pay and charged with a breach of security resulting in an escape.

Carter escaped through a window at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse after two armed correctional officers allowed him to enter Judge John N. Prevas' private bathroom alone.

"The policy is the inmate is to be kept in sight," Leonard A. Sipes Jr., state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman said last night.

Also, correctional officers failed to check the bathroom before allowing Carter to use it, said Mr. Sipes, adding, "The policy is they are to check them."

Mr. Sipes said special precautions had been taken in delivering Carter for his court dates. "Standard escort is one correctional officer to each inmate. We had two assigned to Dontay Carter because of his history of violence and disruptive behavior in the correctional system."

Carter was not shackled or handcuffed while he was in the courtroom and he also was free of restraints when he was allowed to go to the bathroom, Mr. Sipes said. The spokesman said department policy says "leg irons are to be reapplied" to inmates leaving the courtroom.

However, authorities questioned whether or not Judge Prevas' bathroom was considered part of the courtroom.

One of the two guards assigned to Carter has been with the Baltimore City Detention Center's transportation unit since 1979. The other has been with the agency since 1990, said officials, who refused to name the officers.

Judge Prevas, who has presided over Carter's three cases stemming from a February crime spree, said he had allowed the convicted murderer to use the bathroom adjacent to the judge's chambers rather than be escorted to the lockup on the fourth floor of the courthouse.

Yesterday, he refused to second-guess that move, offering instead his own theory that Carter had perhaps used the hundreds of hours spent in the courtroom in the past few months to find a path to freedom.

However, officials said that as of today, there was a new directive: All prisoners are to be escorted to the bathroom in the detention area in the courthouse.

John W. Anderson, city sheriff, said he has never seen anything like yesterday's events.

"This is the first one in the courthouse that I can recall," said Sheriff Anderson. "This is my 21st year. This is the first one who got away."

The sheriff, who is in charge of courthouse security but is not responsible for inmates in state custody who come to court, said juveniles make a run for it at least a couple of times a year, but they are usually caught. He also recalled two attempted escapes from the courthouse in the past two years. In one incident, in August, a man bolted from the courthouse after being convicted of possession of heroin, but officers ran the man down.

"This is a secure building," he said. "We have hundreds of people who come into this courthouse every day. It's like a small city." But the sheriff said the courthouse is not escape-proof.

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