WILKES-BARRE — Jurors on Tuesday heard conflicting accounts of what happened in the restricted housing unit of an area prison in 2010.
Three of six inmates charged with rioting at State Correctional Institution at Dallas, two of whom are defending themselves against the charges, described to jurors a peaceful protest the men carried out in an effort to alert prison officials to alleged injustices they were receiving while behind bars.
The men — Andre Jacobs, 33, Carrington Keys, 35, and Duane Peter, 44 — hung bed sheets and jumpsuits from their cells to hide themselves from prison guards on April 29, 2010. Joined in their actions by fellow inmates Anthony Locke, Anthony Kelly and Derrick Stanley, the men came to be known as “the Dallas 6.”
Prosecutors argued the facts pointed to a straightforward violation of basic prison rules.
“They wanted the corrections officers to do something, take official action against them,” Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle said in his opening statements. “So they did something to cause a problem. They coerced corrections officers into doing something official.”
Sgt. Donald Buck, an officer at SCI Dallas, testified he ordered the men to remove the items, but each refused. Two videos played for jurors showed Buck ordering the men to answer him. The only response came from Peter, who demanded to talk to the county public defender’s office.
Buck walked along the cells a second time, but again the men still didn’t comply with his orders, he testified.
The defendants, who are being tried together, said their actions were the result of retaliation leveled against them by guards who the inmates had filed lawsuits against — complaints the inmates say had fallen on deaf ears.
“I and the others became targets,” Keys said, reading his opening statement off a white legal pad. Keys, who is facing additional charges he allegedly tossed urine and feces at guards during his cell extraction, said the men were deprived of food, water and access to the prison yard.
“We received no rights, only retaliation,” he said.
Jacobs, during his opening statement, said his mail was tampered with and threats were made on his life.
“We understand prison is prison. It’s not a country club,” Jacobs said. “But officers still have to abide by law.”
Peter’s lawyer, attorney Michael Wiseman, disputed allegations the inmates were resisting during their cell extractions.
“Look and see what you find for yourself in the videos,” Wiseman said. “I don’t think you will, because it’s impossible to resist when five guards are rushing in their with electronic stun equipment.”
Keys’ attempts to cross-examine Buck were marred with objections, sidebars and discussions between the defendants. Judge Lesa S. Gelb ultimately ordered Keys to move forward with his line of questioning after repeated objections to the questions were sustained.
“It’s been asked and answered, and it’s getting late in the day,” Gelb said. “You can move on.”
Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday morning.
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