Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Official: Guards made inmates lick toilets clean

Story Highlights

• Arrest warrants issued for 8 former prison employees in Florida
• Some accused of abusing inmates, others of failing to report abuse
• Inmates forced to eat off floor, clean toilets with tongues, official says
• 13 employees have been fired from prison in Everglades

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- Prosecutors issued arrest warrants Tuesday for eight former prison employees accused of abusing inmates, including forcing some to clean toilets with their tongues.

The eight were among 13 prison employees who had already been fired from the 605-inmate medium and minimum security wards at the Hendry Correctional Institution in the Everglades.

The previous warden and an assistant warden resigned, and three others were reassigned after an inmate was beaten and choked by guards in March.

State prisons chief Jim McDonough said the warrants include charges of battery and failing to report inmate abuse against former guards William Thiessen, Phillip Barger and Randy Hazen, Gabriel Cotilla, Kevin Filipowicz, Ruben Ibarra and Stephen Whitney. Fired guard James Brown was charged with grand theft.

Some inmates were given choices of eating their food off the floor or providing sexual favors to guards, McDonough said.

"We had cases where inmates were compelled under threat of force to clean a commode with their tongues," McDonough said. "These were improper, illegal heinous and despicable acts and it was done apparently in an organized and conspiratorial fashion."

McDonough said the FBI and the U.S. attorney were also looking into civil rights violations.

None of the eight men could immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Thiessen, Barger, Hazen and Whitney's phone numbers were unlisted. Nobody answered at a number under Ibarra's name. A number listed under Cotilla's name was connected to a fax machine, and there was not enough information to locate a number for Brown, who has a common name.

It was not known Tuesday whether any of the men had hired attorneys.

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