Cumberland Times-News

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January 31, 2014

Guard acquitted of violating inmate’s civil rights

BALTIMORE — A jury in Baltimore acquitted a Maryland correctional officer on Friday of violating the civil rights of a state prison inmate who was severely beaten by other officers in 2008.

But the federal jury convicted Sgt. Josh Hummer of lying to state police initially about what he saw.

Jurors were deadlocked on two other charges against Hummer: conspiring to cover up the beating and lying to an administrative law judge about what he saw.

Prosecutors claimed that Hummer violated Kenneth Davis’ civil rights by failing to stop five other officers from severely beating the prisoner after he allegedly punched a guard at the Roxbury Correctional Institution near Hagerstown.

Prosecutors said Hummer also failed to get medical help for Davis and conspired to cover up the beating.

Hummer says he didn’t see the beating that left Davis with a broken nose, back and ribs.

Twelve former officers have pleaded guilty to federal charges and two to state charges in the case.

Davis recovered and was released in 2012.

Hummer was indicted in February. Two more former or current correctional officers are scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court Feb. 10.

Hummer’s was the first trial stemming from federal indictments of 15 officers on charges they conspired to illegally punish Davis for bloodying a guard’s nose in a scuffle, and then covered up the assault. In Hummer’s trial, the Justice Department sought to achieve what state prosecutors failed to do in a series of trials more than five years ago: Persuade a jury that any of the officers broke the law.

Hummer, 40, of Chambersburg, Pa., wasn’t accused of actively participating in the beating. But three convicted co-workers testified Hummer watched as Davis was pummeled and kicked. Former officer Reginald Martin testified that Hummer eventually halted the beating by saying, “He’s had enough.”

Hummer also was accused of lying to investigators as part of a cover-up in which former Lt. Edwin Stigle admittedly destroyed incriminating surveillance video.

Lead prosecutor Forrest Christian told the jury it was “the Roxbury way” for officers on three consecutive shifts to beat any inmate who hit a guard, and to cover for each other.

Defense attorney Clarke Ahlers accused prosecutors of manipulating evidence to fit their theory that Hummer was part of the plot.

Hummer acknowledged on the witness stand that he initially lied to investigators, telling them that Davis’ cell door was closed when he walked by looking for a pair of gloves. He voluntarily corrected his account days later, telling a Maryland State Police detective that all he saw through the open cell door was an officer squatting down to talk to Davis as the inmate lay beneath his bunk with his face to the wall.

Hummer said in an interview Thursday before the verdict that he was getting “railroaded” by prosecutors and former co-workers who resented him for testifying against them in earlier proceedings. His lawyer said the former SWAT team member and defensive-tactics instructor had an exemplary work record. Hummer was cited by the state corrections commissioner in 2007 for helping to halt the attempted escape from a Howard County courtroom of prisoner Brandon Morris, who had murdered Hummer’s friend and co-worker Jeffery Wroten.

“I feel like what’s being done to me is absolutely unjust,” Hummer said before the verdict.

Nine Roxbury officers, not including Hummer, were charged in state court in 2009 with assaulting Davis. Just two were convicted after taking plea deals and defying what one called “the brotherhood of silence” to testify against co-workers. Five were acquitted, one had charges dropped before trial and one had charges dropped after his trial ended in a hung jury.

Davis, 47, of Baltimore, was serving a 19-year sentence for robbery when he was assaulted. He was released in October 2012.

Federal prosecutors said in a filing that Davis received about $100,000 to settle his administrative complaint against state authorities, including several of the indicted officers.

The charge on which Hummer was convicted, lying to state police, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors have until Tuesday to tell the court whether they plan to retry Hummer on the deadlocked counts.

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