Nearly five years after an incident in which a Roxbury Correctional Institution inmate was beaten in his cell, federal authorities say it is still under investigation after a former correctional officer pleaded guilty this week in U.S. District Court to helping cover it up.
Ryan Lohr, 26, of Flintstone, Md., entered a guilty plea Wednesday to conspiring to obstruct justice and destroy evidence in the March 9, 2008, beating of the inmate at the prison south of Hagerstown, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Lohr opened the door to inmate K.D.’s cell to allow other correctional officers to assault K.D. in retaliation for a prior incident involving K.D.,” the Department of Justice said in a news release.
The inmate referred to as K.D. in the Justice Department release was identified in Herald-Mail accounts at the time as former Roxbury inmate Kenneth Davis.
“The U.S. Constitution protects inmates and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute correctional officers who use their official position to assault inmates or to cover up crimes committed by their fellow officers,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in the Department of Justice news release.
Davis, who was 42 at the time, was hospitalized for injuries he suffered in March 8 and 9, 2008, beatings at RCI.
The case is being prosecuted by attorneys of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
“Mr. Lohr admitted that he opened the door so that other correctional officers could assault an inmate, watched while other correctional officers assault(ed) the restrained inmate, and conspired with others to cover up the assault,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in the release.
The correctional officers used their fists and feet to strike Davis, who was restrained at the time of the assault, the release says.
On the day of the beating, Lohr was assigned to the medical dispensary, but went to the Administrative Segregation Intake Area where Davis was being held, according to the criminal information through which Lohr was charged. He met with other officers planning to assault Davis in retaliation for an altercation the inmate had with another officer and Lohr opened the door to the cell, the Department of Justice said.
After Lohr learned there would be an investigation into the beating, he met with other RCI officers and agreed to cover up the assault, the release said.
“Lohr directed others to clean up blood in (Davis’) cell, and watched a supervisor use what appeared to be a magnetic device in an effort to destroy surveillance video footage,” the release said.
The supervisor, identified only by the initials E.S., then hid the magnetic device in a drop ceiling, the criminal information said.
“A supervisor also told Lohr not to write a report about inmate K.D. and his injuries,” the release said.
“Lohr further admitted in court documents he lied to RCI investigators and the Maryland State Police, when these agencies asked him about K.D.’s injuries,” the release said. “Lohr also told RCI officers to provide investigators with false information.”
A criminal information against Lohr was filed on Jan. 18 and he entered a guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Wednesday before Judge James K. Bredar, court records said. Lohr faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced on June 18, the Department of Justice release said.
The Department of Justice said the “case is ongoing” and being investigated by the Frederick Resident Agency of the FBI and is being prosecuted by its Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
“We cannot comment on any ongoing investigations,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Dena Iverson said when asked if others were under investigation.
Washington County Circuit Court records filed in the case alleged that Davis was beaten four times over three consecutive eight-hour work shifts while he was being held in the segregation area.
Fourteen correctional officers were charged criminally locally or by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, department spokesman Mark Vernarelli said in response to e-mailed questions. Six were convicted of charges ranging from second-degree assault to conspiracy to commit assault, Vernarelli said. Three of them received jail sentences, he said.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services terminated 26 correctional officers within weeks of the incident. Eighteen officers from Roxbury were fired along with eight from North Branch Correctional Institution, he said.
The North Branch firings were a result of “information that there were improprieties going on a North Branch at the same time,” Vernarelli said.
Three of the 26 officers agreed to retire in lieu of termination; three firings were later reversed by the Office of Administrative Hearings; and two were “rescinded administratively as further evidence and information came out,” he said.
The 18 remaining firings were upheld by the Office of Administrative Hearings, Vernarelli said.
“All 18 cases were appealed. In each, the decision of the OAH was maintained,” Vernarelli said.
“In addition to the terminations, we had multiple officers suspended for periods ranging from five to 15 days,” Vernarelli said.
Vernarelli confirmed Lohr no longer worked for the department, but could not confirm whether he was among those terminated because of the incident. However, an online case search shows that Lohr filed an administrative agency appeal against Roxbury Correctional Institution and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in 2009 in Baltimore City Court.
Lohr’s appeal was consolidated with those of four other people and the original decision of an administrative law judge was upheld, court records said.