3 prison guards appeal firings

They were terminated after fatal stomping of inmate at city jail

October 14, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,sun reporter

Three correctional officers fired in the aftermath of the fatal of a detainee at downtown Central Booking and Intake Center are appealing their terminations and will have their grievances heard before an appeals board Monday, according to officials from the Maryland Correctional Law Enforcement Union.

Robert Hudley, a former lieutenant at Central Booking, and Kene Jones, a former officer, were among eight correctional officers fired after Raymond K. Smoot was beaten inside his cell in May 2005. The third challenging his firing, Nathan D. Colbert, had been charged with second-degree murder in Smoot's death.

A Baltimore jury convicted former officer Dameon C. Woods of second-degree murder Thursday in the death of Smoot. Another former officer, James L. Hatcher, was found not guilty. A judge dismissed the murder charge against Colbert before the jury began deliberating.

The union will contend that the officers were unjustly fired. Jones and Hudley were terminated after they were accused of lying to the warden and court commissioner about what they saw the night Smoot was killed. Hudley had been a correctional officer for 20 years and is fighting for his pension.

Jones and Hudley failed to identify anyone in the cell to the commissioner. In a transcript of the conversation entered into court as evidence, Jones said, "I had my back turned toward the door. I cannot say who came in [the] cell." Hudley said he could not give names or faces of anyone in the cell, drawing a rebuke from the commissioner, who called Hudley's story "incredible."

After they were fired, the officers identified Woods as being the person who stomped Smoot.

"We're fighting for the pay that they have lost and the pension," said Kim Howard, president of the union. "We do not feel like those employees should have been terminated or arrested."

Howard said the union continues to support Woods, whom she says should not have been charged with murder. Woods was acting in accordance with his job, which calls for officers to assist when a fellow officer is engaged in a fight with a detainee, Howard contends.

"Of course, we didn't want Mr. Smoot murdered, but we don't want an officer murdered either," Howard said. "Even though the jury convicted this man, the information the state gave, I don't believe it was accurate. The investigators didn't do a good job in this case.

"I don't believe the officer that was accused wanted to beat Mr. Smoot until he couldn't breath," Howard said. "I don't believe that at all."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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