16 May 2002
Source: Fax from US Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Northern District of California

May 16, 2002

The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California announced that two prison guards -- Edward Michael Powers, 56, Brookings, Oregon, and Jose Ramon Garcia, 46, of San Francisco -- were convicted yesterday following a lengthy jury trial of conspiracy to violate civil rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241.

Mr. Powers and Mr. Garcia were correctional officers at Pelican Bay Prison who conspired together to deprive inmates of the right, guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Mr. Powers and Mr. Garcia would cause inmates convicted of sex offenses, or who were otherwise disliked by them, to be assaulted by other inmates, and in two instances, by the defendants themselves.

The trial included evidence of a near-riot at Pelican Bay on September 14, 1993. Federal District Judge Thelton Henderson was visiting Pelican Bay on the day in connection with his decision in the case of Madrid v. Gomez, which ultimately resulted in findings that there were widespread abuses at the prison. Witnesses testified that the defendants knew in advance that a group of inmates had stabbing weapons and were planning a large-scale incident at the prison. Instead of preventing the violence, the defendants allowed the inmates on the yard to have weapons, and then staged a dramatic take down, with shots fired, while Judge Henderson was approaching the yard observation tower. Members of Judge Henderson's staff remained on the yard itself, and had to lay down on the ground along with the inmates as the incident was brough under control. Soon thereafter, Judge Henderson was ushered into a conference room and shown 26 weapons that had just been taken off the yard. Prosecutors argued that the event was staged to show Judge Henderson that Pelican Bay is a dangerous place, and that he should not interfere with the guards in running the prison.

Defendant Garcia was acquitted of a substantive violation of 18 U.S.. § 242 -- Violation of Civil Rights under Color of Law. This count involved allegations that Mr. Garcia set up an assault on a convicted child molester, then used that as an excuse to fire a 37 mm Federal Gas Gun at the inmate to further terrorize him.

The conspiracy count of which the defendants were convicted include the stabbing of an inmate who had angered the correctional staff because of his behavior toward female correctional officers and teachers at the prison. One correctional officer testified that the day before the stabbing, he was told by another officer that defendant Powers wanted the officer to "look away" while the inmate was stabbed, and nor fire any shots in response. The correctional officder testified that, because of the "code of silence" at the prison, the officer did not come forward until years later when confronted by Internal Affairs investigators. Other officers testified that instead of investigating the stabbing, defendant Powers immediately allowed the inmates on the yard back to their cells, without recording their identities, searching them, or otherwise making any effort to identify the assailant. Inmate witnesses testified that they had been asked to commit the stabbing by defendant Powers.

The conspiracy also included numerous other assaults on inmates.

The maximum statutory penalty for violation of Section 241 is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. However, any sentence following conviction would be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and would be imposed in the discretion of the Court.

Mr. Powers and Mr. Garcia are scheduled to appear on Friday, March 17, 2002 [sic], before Judge Martin J. Jenkins for a hearing regarding whether they should be remanded into custody pending sentencing.

The prosecution is the result of a lengthy investigation by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the California Department of Corrections, Internal Affairs Unit and Special Services Unit. Melinda Haag and Jeffrey Cole, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Northern District of California, prosecuted the case.

A copy of this press release may also be found on the U.S. Attorney's website at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.

All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office should be directed to Assistant Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415) 436-7181.

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