Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Eyes are focused on our state's prison system after seven inmates were killed and 22 were injured during a recent riot at Lee Correctional Institution, but US Attorney Beth Drake say Wednesday’s indictments have no direct relation to that incident.
"The investigations have been ongoing for a while and they continue and the manner in which we indict cases priority and certainly priority increased after the riots, but it's not linked to the riots,” Drake said.
The alleged crimes happened from 2015 to 2017 and involved employees with a range of jobs, including guards, a nurse, cooking staff and even a groundskeeper. Meanwhile defense attorneys at Wednesday’s arraignment believe the charges are only meant to serve as an example.
Here are the names of the employees indicted:
Rachel Burgess, age 39
Joshua Cave, age 29
Jamal Ealry, age 23
James Harvey, age 54
Douglas Hawkins, age 29
Robert Hill, age 53
Sharon Johnson-Breeland, age 29
Darnell Kleckley, age 33
Holly Mitchem, age 37
Frank Pridgeon, age 64
Catherine Prosser, age 60
Camille Williams, age 65
Miguel Williams, age 41
Shatara Wilson, age 29
The accused are from correctional facilities across the state, specifically Tyger River, Perry, Broad River, McCormick, Lee, Lieber, and Allendale. All have been fired.
"These clients have already been charged and plead guilty in state court, so now we’re facing new charges for basically the same conduct. That leads me to believe that it's a charge based on what happened in Lee County,” Lori Murray said.
Murray is defending Catherine Prosser who is charged with accepting bribes to smuggle cellphones and marijuana in February of 2016.
"She was off of probation. She had done some house arrest time and she was completely finished with that and now we have additional time probably coming because of new charges related to the same conduct," said Murray.
Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said they are doing everything they can to prevent cellphones from getting into the state's prisons.
"I think I've been very vocal about that. I've also been very vocal that this is not just a South Carolina problem. We've seen similar happenstance in departments across the country,” he said.
Drake said that in most instances, the former workers were caught before the items were able to get into the prisons.
Inside the courtroom, the judge said the officers would be housed at the Lexington County jail. We later were informed by that jail that was not the case. News19 reached out to federal officials, who confirmed that after the hearing, their assignment for housing changed.