New Jersey

NJ Guards at Youth Prison Face Assault, Tampering Charges After Inmate Altercation

The officers filed false reports about the incident, with one including that the inmate tried to “mule kick” a shield, but video and photo evidence contradict the report, the attorney general's office said

Getty Images

Six New Jersey correctional officers are facing assault and tampering charges from a 2020 interaction with an inmate in the state's minimum custody youth prison, the state attorney general said Friday.

Early on April 8, 2020, the officers forcibly removed an unidentified inmate from his cell at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Chesterfield, including by shooting pepper spray at the inmate twice despite his offering to be handcuffed, acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement.

The officers then filed false reports, Platkin said. One included that the inmate tried to “mule kick” a shield, but video and photo evidence contradict the report, the attorney general's office said.

An attorney for one of the defendants and the head of the union representing prison guards in New Jersey dispute the charges.

The ordeal, according to the attorney general, left the inmate screaming in pain and covered in blood. He was given an inhaler and oxygen in the infirmary, and was treated for cuts on his face, the attorney general said.

State Department of Corrections policy permits the use of force when it's “objectively necessary and reasonable” and requires inmates be given an opportunity to comply before a forced cell extraction, the attorney general's office said.

A reason for the cell extraction wasn't given.

“Correctional police officers are entrusted with great authority over the inmates in their custody, and when they abuse that power, they must be held accountable,” Platkin said in a statement.

Facing charges are Sgt. Michael Emmert, who faces two aggravated assault charges as well as a tampering with records charge. Senior correctional officers Christopher Toth, Raymond Quinones, Michael Gaines, Mark Sadlowski and Michael Ambrozaitis.

Stuart Alterman, an attorney for Sadlowski and counsel to the union that represents correctional officers, said in a phone call his client as well as the others are not guilty.

“This is an unfortunate set of events where senior correctional officers were doing their duty and attempting to do their duty and protecting themselves from a very dangerous inmate,” Alterman said.

Messages have been left with the other defendants' attorneys as well.

Alterman said the officers are suspended without pay.

William Sullivan, the president of the labor union representing the correctional officers, said in a text message the officers acted professionally and did “exactly what was required of them per policy.”

“This investigation took over two years. They worked everyday and had not one negative interaction at work since this alleged incident,” he said.

The Burlington County facility has about 1,000 inmates and operates as a minimum security institution, where they participate in vocational training or academic education, according to the Department of Corrections.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us