Carter's two guards are fired 'There is no excuse,' commissioner says THE CAPTURE OF DONTAY CARTER

January 20, 1993|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,Staff Writer Staff writer Jay Apperson contributed to this article.

The head of the Baltimore City Detention Center yesterday fired two correctional officers, blaming their "gross negligence" for enabling convicted murderer Dontay Carter to escape through a courthouse window a day earlier.

"They had full knowledge of Dontay Carter's history," said a somber LaMont Flanagan, commissioner of the state's Division of Pretrial Detention and Services. "They had full knowledge of the high risk of escape by Dontay Carter. . . . There is no excuse."

Mr. Flanagan said the pretrial division and court officials will review courthouse security to determine if policy changes are needed. But he put sole responsibility for Carter's escape on the two officers, saying they had violated standard procedures by failing to shackle the prisoner and leaving him unsupervised.

The guards, though, were not the only ones to depart from normal practice. During Carter's appearances at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, Judge John Prevas allowed him to use the private bathroom adjoining the judge's chambers, instead of the secure bathrooms prisoners generally use. Carter escaped Monday afternoon through a window in the bathroom.

Joseph H. H. Kaplan, the administrative judge for Baltimore Circuit Court, said yesterday that he had never heard of a judge allowing his bathroom to be used by a defendant and suggested that Judge Prevas had made a misjudgment. "I think there's enough blame to go around," he said. "It should never have happened."

Judge Kaplan added, however, that judges are not responsible for security.

Mr. Flanagan said he was prohibited from identifying the guards until they have had a chance to appeal their firings. However, during Carter's trial, which continued yesterday without him, one of the guards was identified as Frank Beales. Mr. Beales could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Flanagan said the guards had improperly allowed Carter to leave the courtroom without handcuffs and leg shackles. They had failed to examine Judge Prevas' bathroom for possible weapons or escape opportunities before allowing Carter to use it. And, they had failed to remain with Carter while he was in the bathroom, instead standing outside. Once inside, Carter slammed the door, locked the officers out and slipped through a window to freedom.

Mr. Flanagan said that Carter had used Judge Prevas' bathroom at least nine times before, a practice the commissioner termed both abnormal and unfortunate.

He said that he did not know whether Carter had been shackled during the earlier trips to the bathroom or whether one of the officers had remained with him.

"The officers became comfortable with Dontay Carter being in the judge's chamber," said Mr. Flanagan, "and their comfort has now caused severe discomfort."

The commissioner said the officers neglected one of the cardinal rules of corrections. "You can never trust an inmate," he said.

Mr. Flanagan said he did not know who first suggested that Carter use the judge's bathroom. The judge said he didn't remember who initiated the idea either. However, he said, for some time he has allowed guards to take prisoners to his bathroom to save time and avoid trips through crowded corridors to lock-ups in the basement and on the fourth floor.

But, Judge Prevas said, he leaves security to the officers. "I'm not focusing on the logistical details," he said. "[The correctional officers] are the professionals. I assume they know what they're doing."

Mr. Flanagan said the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has now issued new regulations specifying that prisoners in the Mitchell courthouse can only use restrooms in the lock-up.

The men have five days to appeal Mr. Flanagan's decision.

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