6 inmates allege rights violations

WILKES-BARRE – State inmate Carrington Keys testified Friday his rights were violated.

He said he was deprived of food, water and other human rights and was physically assaulted by State Correctional Institution at Dallas guards in April.

That’s why he and five other inmates, Keys said, blocked their cell doors in the prisons restricted housing unit – to get attention from a guard to speak with someone about the violation of their rights.

Keys and his fellow inmates will now face charges of riot and aggravated harassment by a prisoner in Luzerne County Court after District Judge James Tupper forwarded all charges following the four-hour preliminary hearing.

Nearly 15 armed corrections officers attended the hearing, held at the Luzerne County Courthouse for security purposes.

“I did it because my rights (were) being violated,” said Keys, 29, who is now serving his sentence at SCI-Frackville on a robbery charge from Allegheny County. “They were turning a blind eye to abuse.”

Four corrections officers, as well as three inmates, testified Friday.

State police Cpl. Christopher Wilson called the three corrections officers to testify. They said the six inmates were given several orders to remove the coverings from their cell doors – a violation of the prisons code – and didn’t comply.

The officers testified they then removed the six men from their cells to search them.

“Something serious was going on,” said Sgt. Donald Buck, an officer at SCI-Dallas. “It was a security and safety issue.”

Tupper sent riot charges against Duane Peters, 39, Anthony Locke, 31, Derrick Stanley, 40, Andre Jacobs, 28 and Anthony Kelly, 27 to Luzerne County Court. Tupper additionally sent charges of riot and aggravated harassment by a prisoner against Keys, 29.

The inmates were charged on April 29 after police said they covered and tied their cell doors at the prisons restrictive housing unit.

The men claim they were being retaliated against after civil complaints and complaints with several other agencies were filed against the corrections officers.

Wilson said he believes he presented enough evidence at the hearing for the men to face charges, and that the three inmates who testified Friday basically “admitted to covering their cell door.”

Attorneys Jonathan Blum and Michael Kostelaba, who represented several of the inmates, said their clients can’t be charged with causing a riot because the legal definition of a riot means coming together to act.

“They acted separately in their own (secured) cell,” Blum said. “It may be against prison policy (to cover cell doors), but it’s not unlawful.”

Blum and Kostelaba said their clients didn’t act violently by covering their cell doors, but acted out “silently” because of the “deprivation for their rights.”

“It was the only action available (to take) because all other complains were ignored,” Blum said.

Keys, Peters, Locke, Stanley, Jacobs and Kelly will now face a formal arraignment on Jan. 14, 2011.

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