Prosecutors have filed 109 criminal charges against 16 inmates for their alleged roles in the Jan. 10 attack on four correctional officers inside the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center that inmates and prisoner advocates allege spawned a wave of reprisal by authorities.
All 16 inmates were indicted on two counts of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury and four counts of assault and battery on corrections officers under the legal theory of joint venture, according to Worcester District Joseph Early Jr.'s office, which is prosecuting the case.
All four correctional officers were taken to hospitals following the Jan. 10 attack inside the state’s sole maximum security prison.
In the attack, the Department of Correction said in court documents that one officer suffered head trauma and a badly broken nose, while another had a broken jaw and broken vertebrae in his neck during the attack. Officials have said that the inmates tried to take an officer hostage by dragging him into a cell, but the officer broke free.
The DOC has drawn criticism - and a lawsuit - from inmates and prisoner advocates alleging the state used illegally seized legal documents, wrongly blocked access to attorneys and attacked inmates in response to the Jan. 10 attack at the facility located near the Shirley/Lancaster line.
In their lawsuit, inmates alleged they were attacked by armed correctional officers in their cells and suffered fist strikes, dog bites, and blows from stun guns. Their personal property was taken away after the attack, the lawsuit said, and inmates were locked in their cells with limited access to showers or ability to make phone calls.
On Thursday, Patricia DeJuneas, an attorney who represents one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Robert Silva-Prentice, alleged in a letter to US Attorney Andrew Lelling that at least 92 inmates have claimed that they were attacked by tactical team members without provocation in the days and weeks following the Jan. 10 violence at the state’s only maximum-security prison.
“My understanding is that the number of complaints of staff on inmate assaults since Jan. 10 is more than double the number of complaints from the previous twelve (12) months,” she said in the letter.
Lelling’s office had no comment on the letter. A spokeswoman said the US attorney’s office does not confirm nor deny investigations.
In the letter, she asked Lelling to investigate alleged retaliation on inmates who exercised First and Sixth Amendment rights. She believed a probe would “uncover systemic corruption and evidence of brutal, inhumane treatment of Souza-Baranowski inmates, particularly since January 10, 2020.”
In the letter, DeJuneas said that during a “prison-wide shakedown” on Jan. 22, DOC tactical teams wore no nametags. She said that either most or all of the tactical team members were brought in from other institutions, meaning their faces were unrecognizable to inmates.
She also alleged that the DOC broke its own policies during that operation in that corrections staff did not videotape the tactical teams entering the individual cells and medical staff were not present when the teams stormed the cell block.
DeJuneas asserted that DOC staff did not interview her client Silva-Prentice and did not photograph or otherwise document his injuries, which she said both violated department policy. She said Silva-Prentice, who had no involvement in the assault, had at least four sets of Taser burns on his body and that members of a tactical team ripped out a clump of his dreadlocks while he was restrained face-down on the floor.
Ashley Allen works in the same firm as DeJuneas and represents Frank Webb, a 28-year-old who was indicted in connection with the Jan. 10 incident at Souza-Baranowski. Since that incident, Webb has been transferred to MCI-Concord and Allen said the superintendent of that facility told her Thursday night that DOC staff used “force against my client this afternoon for reasons he did not reveal.” Allen said it marked the third time since Webb transferred to Concord that corrections officers assaulted him.
Allen said Webb had injuries to “at least his nose and wrist” and was taken to an outside hospital.
“Mr. Webb is still at the hospital and I do not know when he will be discharged,” Allen said in a Thursday night e-mail.
Four inmates were indicted solely as joint venturers in connection with the Jan. 10 attack: Tabari Muhammed, 28; Webb, Marcus Muniz, Steven Gonzalez, 39; Israel Perez, 25; and Lennon Dossantos, 25.
The remaining dozen are facing a variety of serious criminal charges:
- Jovani Molinari, 23, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot);
- Giovanni Buchanan, 25, aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot) and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot);
- Carlos Bastos, 29, aggravated kidnapping;
- Elosko Brown, 33, aggravated kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot);
- Yamil Narvaez Arroyo, 24, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot); Alexander Soto, 26, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (wooden cane);
- Jason Velez Acosta, 29, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot); John Mentor, 33, aggravated kidnapping;
- Joshua Reyes, 28, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot);
- Pedro Solis, 30, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (shod foot).
The inmates will be arraigned in Worcester Superior Court in the coming weeks, prosecutors said.