By Becca Heller
The Board of Public Works reluctantly approved a request by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide $40,000 in settlement to inmate Michael Smith, who was brutally assaulted multiple times while in state custody.
Surfacing amid the Baltimore City Detention Center scandal that made a splash in state and national media, Smith’s shocking case raises further questions about the Maryland’s correctional facilities with allegations of corrupt correctional officers, denial of medical treatment, and incompetence across the correctional system.
While in the city jail, Smith cut a deal with correctional officer CORRECTION Duwuane Crew who agreed to smuggle heroin, cell phones, and other contraband into the facility. When inmate Smith backed out of the partnership, it is alleged that Crew provided another inmate, Bryan Medlin, with a handcuff key, allowing Medlin to escape from triple restraints (hands cuffed and chained to the feet) and carry out a violent assault on Smith.
Allegedly denied medical care
Smith was then allegedly denied medical care by the facility — he was brought in to be treated by a nurse but when he requested to see a doctor, Warden William Filbert allegedly
denied the request. Smith was discovered unresponsive in his cell later that day.
CORRECTION: Michael Doyle, supervising attorney of the Division of Correction, explained that “after the March 15th [2007
2009] incident, matters were investigated” and Crew admitted to having an affiliation to the Bloods gang.
“And the only response on behalf of the state is to ask this officer Crew to resign, as if he was an employee who was caught packing his time sheets or adding mileage requests? Why wasn’t he terminated, arrested, and charged with fines against the state of Maryland?” Comptroller Peter Franchot asked incredulously. “How do we possibly have people like that working for us?”
The comptroller also laid blame on then-Warden Filbert, who had been informed of Crew’s gang affiliation weeks before the incident took place and taken no action.
Segregation recommendation ignored
Following the initial beating, Smith was transferred to two other jails, sent with a recommendation for segregated living conditions for protection. In each case, this recommendation was ignored and Smith was repeatedly beaten in each facility.
According to Doyle’s notes, Smith had told officers he did not want to be in segregated living, but contradicting notes from the comptroller’s background file suggested that Smith was placed in general population as a result of his refusal to name names in connection with the earlier drug scheme.
“Did he say he wanted to get the hell beaten out of him again?” asked the comptroller, frustrated. “To put him in the general population for a third assault– that has got to be one of the most stupid, heartless decisions.”
Doyle agreed that the decision was wrong, but could not provide an explanation as to why it was made or where the breakdown in communication was.
To wrap things up, Doyle reiterated the department’s request for the funds.
“We believe this settlement is in the best interest of the state,” he said. “All of the officers acted without malice or lack of attention to their duties.”
The comptroller rejected Doyle’s assertion with little pause.
Franchot still upset
“To say that all of the state employees with the exception of Crew acted without gross negligence, that seems pretty amazing,” said Franchot. “Saying that these people acted within the scope of their employment is really almost an insult to the people who do.”
Despite the comptroller’s overt opposition to the procurement, Governor Martin O’Malley moved the approval of the settlement and was seconded by Treasurer Nancy Kopp.
“I must say this is very troubling,” said Kopp. “But I do believe it’s in the interest of the taxpayers.”
O’Malley ended the conversation turning attention to what needed to be done to prevent future problems, addressing Secretary Gary Maynard, the department secretary.
“Secretary Maynard, you have my full backing to do everything and anything in your power legally to deal with all of these matters,” said O’Malley. “Do not relent and do not let up for any reason whatsoever.”