This installment of Prison News in Brief concerns news from New York through Oklahoma and is brought to us by our friends at Prison Legal News.

  • New York Prison News

The wife of a Rikers Island mental health worker was arrested on May 8, 2013, for making death threats to her husband’s alleged mistress, another Rikers Island employee.  Victoria Beltran, a transsexual actress, suspected an affair after finding unusual credit card charges made by her husband, Brett Bergmann.  Furious, Beltran began to pepper the suspected mistress, Katarzyna Sakowicz, with voicemails and text messages, which Sakowicz reported to authorities.  The two women also argued about whether Bergmann knew that Beltran was born a man.  Beltran, who was charged with aggravated harassment, said her husband was aware of her sex-change operation from the beginning of their relationship.  Bergmann is reportedly filing for divorce.

  • New York Prison News

Former Erie County sheriff’s deputy Cutolo Buffalo, 54, was charged with pepper-spraying a prisoner who was handcuffed and being escorted by two other deputies.  The August 2012 incident led to an FBI investigation and Cutolo’s termination from the sheriff’s department.  Cutolo pleaded guilty and was sentenced on August 2, 2013, to six months’ home confinement on electronic monitoring plus one year of probation.

  • New York Prison News

Nancy Gonzalez, 29, a former guard at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, was impregnated by a prisoner at the jail.  Gonzalez was arrested in March 2013 and pleaded guilty on July 3, 2013, to having sex with MDC prisoner Ronell Wilson, resulting in the birth of her son, Justus Liam Gonzalez.  Defense attorney Anthony Ricco compared the pair’s relationship to that of Romeo and Juliet — although unlike the Shakespearean play, Wilson was facing the death penalty for killing NYPD undercover officers Rodney Andrews and James Nemorin during a gun purchase sting in 2003.  Gonzalez refused to testify at Wilson’s death penalty hearing and he was sentenced to death on July 24, 2013.  She lost her parental rights to Justus on November 15, 2013, after drinking alcohol during meetings with Wilson’s relatives, which violated a condition of her bail.

  • New Zealand Prison News

In July 2013, a New Zealand court ruled against a challenge to the country’s ban on tobacco in prisons, holding that the prison system would remain smoke-free.  The decision also meant that prisoners who had sought compensation for smoking-related offenses will have no recourse.  The ban, which was instituted in July 2011, was preceded by an extensive 12-month campaign to encourage prisoners to quit.  For many prisoners, giving up smoking has led to better health and cost savings.

  • North Carolina Prison News

A former guard at the Rivers Correctional Institution, Rhonda Boyd, was sentenced on July 11, 2013, to 20 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for her involvement in accepting payments for smuggling cigarettes into the facility.  The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of the Inspector General, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

  • Ohio Prison News

A part-time North Royalton jail guard who was serving as a probation officer for the Parma Municipal Court was sentenced to three years in prison on June 17, 2013.  Michael A. Maresh, 26, was charged with having non-consensual sex with a woman who was reporting to him as a probationer; he was found guilty of two counts of sexual battery stemming from the June 2012 incident.

  • Oklahoma Prison News

In May 2013, Department of Corrections employees from across the state marched on the Capitol demanding a pay increase.  They said it had been seven years since they last received a raise and complained that they deserve better.  The governor’s communications director, Alex Weintz, said the governor was not comfortable giving the department any additional funding until the manner in which it accounts for those funds becomes more accurate, more transparent or both.  “Governor Fallin knows there are many hardworking public servants at DOC, and she respects the work they do,” stated Weintz.  “Their leadership has not served them well by failing to fully and accurately disclose the agency’s finances.”

(Reprinted with permission from Prison Legal News.)

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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