A former correctional officer at the Carroll County Detention Center pleaded guilty yesterday to misconduct in office and to conspiring to provide heroin to several inmates between November and January, in return for cocaine.
Jeffrey R. Meyers, 25, formerly of Green Street in Westminster was ordered to serve 18 months of a five-year prison term and fined $500, with three years of probation after his release to include drug and alcohol supervision.
Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. agreed to recommend work release and gave Meyers until Aug. 27 to report to the detention center, although he probably will be housed instead at the Frederick County Detention Center for his protection because of his former job.
Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said the plea bargain on the misdemeanor charges meant he would not have to call inmates as witnesses - or to make deals with them in return for testimony against Meyers. Sentencing guidelines called for six months to three years' imprisonment.
"It's rare that a law enforcement officer goes to jail," Barnes said. "The primary reason I wanted to reach a plea was that in order to actually try the case, I would have had to work out several agreements with inmates, and I did not want to do that to secure their testimony."
Defense attorney Michael J. Belsky emphasized that his client confessed, apologized and cooperated with authorities in the smuggling case.
"Mr. Meyers has accepted full responsibility for his actions from the beginning," Belsky said. "The sentence is relatively reasonable, and we are happy the court recommended work release so that he can prove to be a productive member of society."
Belsky said Meyers began using cocaine while stationed in the Army at Fort Bragg, N.C. Meyers, who joined the Carroll County Sheriff's Department on Nov. 9 after an honorable military discharge, was in his probationary term as a correctional officer when he was arrested Jan. 17, said Carroll Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning.
Meyers was accused of smuggling heroin in a cleaning bucket at least four times, and in a confession told authorities he did so in return for cocaine for his own use, according to court records and authorities.
"This case has been adjudicated and an agreement reached between the state's attorney's office and Mr. Meyers' attorney, and I really have no comment - other than I will not tolerate any illegal contraband coming into the detention center by an employee, an inmate or a member of the public," said Tregoning. "We're always vigilant about contraband coming into the institution, and perhaps the last person you would expect to do that would be an employee."
The investigation began in January after a former inmate told a counselor that he suspected smuggling, officials said. Three female inmates then tested positive for opiates and told authorities that Meyers had been providing them with heroin. At least 11 small vials holding about 1/10th of a gram of heroin - worth $10 to $20 on the street - were given to at least four jail inmates.
The heroin and the cocaine were provided to Meyers by an inmate's mother, said Barnes, adding that Meyers is cooperating in a continuing investigation. Authorities have found no indication of involvement by any other official.
Felony charges against Meyers for distributing drugs were dropped in February, said Barnes, in part because no drugs were recovered from him or the inmates.
Although the sheriff said contraband is intercepted almost every day, the only similar incident officials could recall involved a correctional officer smuggling alcohol into the jail about 15 years ago.