Correctional officers in New Jersey are being held responsible for allegedly abusing female inmates.
On Thursday, it was announced that three officers at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women were officially charged after six women came forward with abuse allegations. Additional charges against officers are expected as the investigation continues.
“Any abuse of power is abhorrent and violates the public trust, and can never be tolerated or excused,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. He ordered an independent investigation into the matter, per NJ.com.
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It all started around January 11 and January 12 when officers attempted to pull the women from their cells at the Clinton facility.
One woman claims she was sexually assaulted. And another says she was beaten so badly her eye socket and cheekbone were broken. She was left with bruises and a concussion.
Thirty-two staff members have been put on administrative leave after the incident. Some of the officers “attempted to cover it up by filing false reports about the incident, downplaying the seriousness of the incident, and failing to document the true nature of the officer’s actions that evening,” said state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
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Officer Luis A. Garcia, 23, allegedly punched a woman over twenty eight times. He is looking at a second-degree aggravated assault charge, second-degree official misconduct, and third-degree tampering with public records.
But his attorney, Robert Cannan said Garcia “adamantly denies these allegations.”
“He will plead not guilty and ultimately looks forward to complete vindication and restoration to his pay status and his career,” said the attorney.
Sgt. Anthony J. Valvano, 38, is being charged with second-degree official misconduct and third-degree tampering with public records. Another sergeant, Amir E. Bethea, 35, is facing two counts of second-degree official misconduct and two counts of third-degree tampering with public records. It is unclear if they have attorneys.
“They were not treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve,” said Grewal in regards to the inmates. “In fact, they were assaulted physically and violently.”
The investigation is ongoing and findings will be released to the public, including video of the incident.
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