Two additional COs were charged with lying on official documents about the assaults on Tuesday
By S.P. Sullivan
UNION TOWNSHIP, N.J. — State authorities on Tuesday accused a lieutenant
and a sergeant of lying on official documents about the brutal beatings
of inmates at New Jersey’s women’s prison, bringing the total number of
sworn law enforcement officers accused of assaulting women or aiding in
the coverup to 10.
The charges are the latest development in a widening
scandal at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, which was
singled out for violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of inmates by
staff in a scathing report from the U.S. Justice Department last year.
They stem from a Jan. 12 incident, in which teams donning
riot gear marched into the prison’s “restorative housing unit” and began
forcibly removing prisoners.
Lt. Eddie Molina, 42, of East Brunswick, and Sgt. Andraia
Bridges, 44, of North Plainfield, supervised the “extraction teams” sent
to conduct prisoner removals from cells to search for contraband.
The pair “failed to prevent and report the excessive use of
force and assaultive conduct by other corrections officers,” according
to state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, whose office is leading the
criminal probe into the conduct of prison staff.
As a lieutenant, Molina is the highest-ranking officer
charged so far in the inquiry. His attorney, Steven D. Altman, declined
to comment on the accusations.
Multiple inmates involved in the forced extraction told NJ
Advance Media that prison administrators and medical staff were also
present during the violent encounter. Grewal said in a statement Tuesday
that the investigation is ongoing and more charges could follow.
“We are far from done,” he said.
The accusations against Molina and Bridges stem from the
beating of two prisoners. Authorities have not named the women, but NJ
Advance Media has identified them as Desiree Dasilva and Emmalee Dent
after speaking with the prisoners and their families.
Charging documents allege Bridges looked on as one
extraction team beat a handcuffed and compliant Dasilva as she cried in
pain. Dasilva suffered a broken orbital bone from the attack.
Bridges’ attorney, James Pomaco, disputed the attorney
general’s account, calling his client a 14-year veteran of the force
with “an unblemished record.”
“She was involved in two extractions, which she did report.
This particular one (cited in charging documents) she was not involved
and did not believe she had any duty to report it and we’re confident
that she will vindicated at trial.”
Molina is similarly accused of failing to intervene or
report excessive force in the removal of Dent from her cell. State
prosecutors claim the officers pepper-sprayed the woman without giving
her appropriate time to comply with their orders.
“As she was removed from her cell, (Dent) is observed in
video images with visible facial injuries and is clearly heard informing
those present about her injuries,” the charging documents state.
“Despite his presence during (Dent’s) extraction, Molina did not
intervene to stop the officers’ improper use of force.”
The prison will likely face scrutiny from a federal monitor, pending a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The January incident has led to demands for the ouster of state Corrections Commissioner Marcus Hicks.
After a contentious public hearing before state lawmakers, the prison system’s ombudsman, Dan DiBenedetti, announced he would resign.
Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said he was “sickened” by the allegations and commissioned an outside investigation into what happened after details of the beatings became public but has said little of the incident since.
Grewal, the attorney general, has pledged to release video
of the forced extraction, but has yet to do so more than three months
after the incident.
Comments: Got to be some rough women there to send in a dressed out extraction team.In all my years of working around female inmates, I have never witnessed this. The article doesn't state that any extraction like this should have been filmed and used as evidence if need be. I never did like dirty CO's and Officer's.I did my job by the book and proud of it. TDCJ-ID Ret.