St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • 4 more charged in prison beating
  • Power crisis seen in Pompano protest
  • Bush names interim head of health care agency

  • Lucy Morgan
  • Governor's phone call a sign of the times

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com

    printer version

    4 more charged in prison beating

    An officer who had a run-in with death row inmate Frank Valdes the day before he died is among the newly charged.

    By ADAM C. SMITH

    © St. Petersburg Times, published May 12, 2001


    GAINESVILLE -- Four more prison officers were charged and a slew of new accusations were added Friday in the beating death of a Florida State Prison inmate.

    Among the newly charged officers was Montrez Lucas, acquitted last year of aggravated battery and other charges stemming from a confrontation with death row inmate Frank Valdes.

    Lucas was charged Friday with second-degree murder in Valdes' death on July 17, 1999, as was Andrew Lewis, Donald Stanford, and Dewey Beck.

    Other officers already facing murder charges -- Charles Brown, Jason Griffis and Timothy Thornton -- had various new charges added, including battery, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and official misconduct.

    Prosecutors dropped second-degree murder charges against Sgt. Robert Sauls, who recently agreed to be interviewed by prosecutors. Sauls still faces charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and battery on an inmate.

    The new charges had been expected, and the specifics were revealed in information filed with Circuit Judge Larry Turner.

    No warrants had been served as of Friday afternoon, and State Attorney Bill Cervone said it was "entirely inappropriate" for the charges to be publicized. He declined to discuss them.

    On the morning of July 17, 1999, Valdes was forcibly removed from his confinement cell.

    He was taken to the infirmary and then returned to his cell. Officers say he then seriously injured himself by repeatedly hurling himself onto the floor.

    Authorities say his condition -- boot marks on his body, all his ribs broken, his testicles swollen to the size of oranges -- clearly indicated he was beaten to death.

    But prosecutors have struggled with a wall of silence from officers, and there have been few signs of cracks in the wall.

    Charging Lucas last year for allegedly striking Valdes on July 16 was widely seen as an effort to pressure him into cooperating, but Lucas took the case to trial in Bradford County and was acquitted.

    Now Lucas is back in prosecutors' sights for what happened July 17. In addition to murder, he is charged with conspiracy, battery and official misconduct for allegedly falsifying reports.

    The murder trial, now likely to be delayed from its scheduled July 16 start, also is to be in Bradford County, where Florida State Prison is the largest employer.

    Former State Attorney Rod Smith had been handling the case, but it was handed to assistant state attorney Greg McMahon after Smith was elected to the state Senate last fall.

    McMahon is not only casting a wider net for the prosecution, he's also giving jurors some lesser charges to consider in the event that they are disinclined to convict any of the officers of murder.

    "I think they're refocusing the direction of prosecution primarily out of a concern over their ability to prove the main charge," said Gil Schaffnit, an attorney representing Thornton.

    Thornton, a former Florida State Prison captain, was the highest ranking officer involved in the "cell extraction" of Valdes and faces the most charges: second degree murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, battery on an inmate, tampering with evidence, official misconduct (falsifying reports), and accessory after the fact.

    Ted Curtis, an attorney for Charles Brown, said Brown continues to maintain his innocence and will plead not guilty. Attorneys for other officers could not be reached for comment.

    - Times Correspondent Matt Boedy contributed to this report.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk