COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Latest on federal charges against more than a dozen South Carolina prison employees accused of bringing contraband into prison (all times local):
Some defense attorneys for the South Carolina Department of Corrections employees indicted on federal charges of bringing contraband into the state’s prisons say their clients were surprised by the new charges.
Fourteen former prisons employees pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal charges including taking bribes to bring items such as cellphones and drugs into prisons.
Columbia attorney Lori Murray says from her conversation with other defense lawyers, all those arraigned Wednesday had either pleaded guilty or been convicted of the same charges in state court previously. Murray says she has never seen prison contraband charges brought in federal court in South Carolina.
She says the charges are intended to send a message following the riot at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville last week that left seven inmates dead and 22 injured.
Attorney Connie Breeden said today’s charges are “piling on.”
Federal authorities say the charges are the result of a two-year-old investigation.
Multiple South Carolina corrections employees are facing federal charges related to bribery and bringing contraband into the state’s institutions a week after a deadly prison riot.
Federal court documents obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday show corrections officers and other agency employees are charged with bringing drugs and cellphones into state prisons.
The indictments were unsealed just over a week after a deadly riot at Lee Correctional Institution that left seven inmates dead. Officials have said the riot was a fight among rival gangs competing for territory and contraband, and have long blamed cellphones for dangers inside prison.
The defendants were expected to appear in court later Wednesday.