Drug treatment center doctor who worked for Kenny Chatman will stay out of jail

A doctor who worked for corrupt treatment center operator Kenny Chatman will not be going back to jail – at least for now.

Federal prosecutors wanted Dr. Joaquin Mendez, who is out on $100,000 bond, back behind bars after they argued he violated the terms of his release by treating patients and prescribing opioids.

Kenneth Chatman walks into Reflections, his treatment center in Margate, in 2015.

But Mendez’s lawyer, Richard Lubin, argued the terms were vague, and both sides agreed last week simply to amend the terms of his release.

Mendez, a former medical director for Chatman’s corrupt Reflections Treatment Center, is the only one of eight defendants not to have taken a plea deal for their involvement with the facility.

The seven others, including Chatman and his wife, Laura, were sentenced to a combined 58 years in prison.

Mendez has been charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit health care fraud for ordering unnecessary urine drug tests for addicts, according to prosecutors.

One of the terms of his release, added in handwriting to the paperwork, was that he “not use his Medicare number to provide any services.”

Prosecutors said he violated those terms after he treated at least 188 Medicare patients wrote more than 100 prescriptions for controlled substances that included oxycodone, Oxycontin, clonazepam and fentanyl.

Lubin, his lawyer, argued the terms were weirdly vague.

“Not only is this Court and Dr. Mendez left guessing at what it means to ‘treat patients using his Medicare number,’ it is entirely unclear what the Government means by ‘Medicare number,'” Lubin wrote.

HEROIN: Killer of a generation

Apparently the ‘Medicare number’ prosecutors referenced was Mendez’s Provider Transaction Access Number, which Lubin said had “absolutely nothing to do with” Medicare claims.

On Thursday, both sides agreed to changing the terms of release.

Mendez is one of two doctors in charge of overseeing patient care at Chatman’s facilities to be arrested. Last Week, Dr. Donald Willems was sentenced to 10 years in prison – the maximum sentence – after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Chatman was sentenced to 27 years in prison last month after admitting to turning his female patients into prostitutes and pimping them out online.

No big prison reform, but now they can track the chemical spray

Apparently, Florida has all along needed a law- or Rick Scott’s blessing – to figure out just how much CS gas (aka pepper spray)  state prisons have, where they put it and how they can get rid of it.Scott+2015

Finding a better way to trash empty gas canisters is not what the architects of a sweeping Senate prison reform bill had in mind this past session.

That bill was gutted by the House, though, just before it closed down for business three days ahead of schedule.

All along, lawmakers behind the Senate bill said the House’s suggested reforms weren’t reforms at all, but were window dressing: Changes that no one needed a law to implement.

Like figuring out how to inventory pepper spray.

This afternoon, Gov. Scott signed  Executive Order 15-102, which the governor’s office said makes “significant reforms in Florida’s prison system to improve safety, transparency and accountability.” Among the reforms:

  • Establishment of a usage and inventory policy to track, by institution, the use of chemical agents and disposal of expired, used, or damaged canisters of chemical agents.

The order also includes some significant items, such as unannounced inspections and  statistical analysis examining use of force by guards.

Not included, though, was the central Senate reform, an independent oversight commission. Nor were other reforms the Senate considered necessary in the wake of a series of stories by The Post, the Miami Herald and others exposing prison inmate deaths, abuse and unchecked brutality.

Just months ago, FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice concluded the state prison agency was so flawed that it recommended basically rebuilding it from the ground up.

One of the cases cited by the group:  The 2010 death of  Randall Jordan-Aparo.

He was gassed to death by guards.

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Another day, another Florida prison guard headed to jail

Columbia CI
Columbia CI

Another day, another prison guard bust.

Make that two guards.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reports that Columbia Correctional prison Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan and guard Donald Dwight Sims, Jr. have been charged with aggravated battery on an inmate and, in Jernigan’s case, tampering with evidence.

According to the FDLE, this is how it played out:

The Columbia Correctional Institution guards were taking Shurick Lewis, 41, to solitary confinement this past February when they ordered other inmates to leave the area. Lewis was then taken to a place without video surveillance and assaulted.

According to FDLE, after the beating, Jernigan told other inmates to clean up the blood, put a new mattress on the bunk and throw away bloody clothes.

Lewis, bleeding from his nose and mouth and with a swollen eye, was seen by a prison nurse. It’s not known what care he got, but the nurse sent him back to his cell – where he lost consciousness.

Several hours later, he was found by officers on the next shift and taken to Shands Hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and several facial fractures.

The two guards offered vastly different stories: Sims said Lewis fell off his bunk. Jernigan said he used force after the inmate lunged at him.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Jernigan turned himself in to the Columbia County Jail yesterday. Sims was arrested Monday night.

All this comes within weeks of the arrest of two prison guards and one ex-guard — all reputed members of the Ku Klux Klan — for conspiring to kill a former inmate.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as the start of a clean sweep, but it does give some credence to  Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones’s written comments about Jernigan and Sims: “The Florida Department of Corrections has absolutely no tolerance for the behavior and actions taken by these individuals.”

 

The fishing pole, the snitch, the fake murder & the KKK guards

Thomas Newcomb
Thomas Newcomb

Reputed Ku Klux Klan Grand Cyclops Charles Thomas Newcomb had two vials of insulin, eight rounds of 9MM ammo wiped clean of prints, a fishing pole and a plan.

Talks recorded by an FBI informant outline why Newcomb, an ex-Florida prison guard, was arrested Thursday and charged with conspiring to murder a former inmate.

Also arrested were two other Florida state prison guards identified as KKK members: David Elliot Moran and Thomas Jordan Driver.

It was Driver who fought with the inmate and who was bitten by him.
He had the grudge.

Thomas Driver
Thomas Driver

Arrest affidavits released late Thursday, though, indicate that it was Newcomb who had the plan.

In Palatka, where the ex-inmate lived, Newcomb didn’t rule out going in “with guns blazing,” according to the informant.

But he had a quieter option.

“I see that fishing pole like he’s been fishing, and give him a couple of (insulin) shots, and sit there and wait on him, then we can kind of lay him so he’s tippled over into the water. And he can breathe in just a little bit of that water,” Newcomb is quoted as saying in a transcribed recording.

“If we go down the road, and that son of a gun is walking by himself and there’s nobody else around, it ain’t going to take nothing for us to just stop the car and put him in this car and take him somewhere.”

David Moran
David Moran

It might have gone down just that way. But the informant got to the FBI, the FBI got to the targeted victim and together they staged a gory murder scene. The informant took cell phone pictures of the murder to Newcomb, Moran and Driver.

In transcripts of recordings with the men, the informant asks “Is this what ya’ll wanted?”

“Yeah!” responds one. “Hell yeah!”

The FBI arrested all three Thursday morning. They face 30 years in state prison.

Moran and Driver are being fired, said a Florida Department of Corrections spokesman.

To read the source affidavit used here: NEWCOMB – AFFIDAVIT AW_Redacted

Update: DOC chief fires two prison guards arrested for plotting to kill inmate

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Updated at 2:08 p.m.
Florida Department of Corrections chief Julie Jones issued this statement following today’s arrest of two current prison guards and one former guard, all KKK members, with plotting to kill an African-American inmate:
“We are moving swiftly to terminate the employees arrested today and working closely with Office of the Attorney General to assist in their prosecution. Our Department has zero tolerance for racism or prejudice of any kind. The actions of these individuals are unacceptable and do not, in any way, represent the thousands of good, hardworking and honorable correctional officers employed at the Department of Corrections.”
The former officer charged in the plot, Charles Thomas Newcomb, was hired in 2012 but dismissed the following year “for failure to meet correctional officer’s minimum training requirements” according to a FDOC spokesman.

Original post: Three current and former Florida prison guards – all members of the Ku Klux Klan – were arrested today and charged with conspiring to kill an African American inmate when he is released from state prison.
Charles Thomas Newcomb, 42, is a former state prison guard; as of this morning, Thomas Jordan Driver, 25, and David Elliot Moran, 47, were still pulling paychecks from the Florida Department of Corrections.
All are members of the Traditional American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The name of the inmate has not been released. However, Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a prepared statement that the three men plotted the murder as retaliation for a fight between the prisoner and Driver.
The list of agencies involved is a long one: Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Federal Bureau of Investigation made the arrest, but Homeland Security, the Florida Department of Corrections Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office assisted.
The mens’ trial will take place in Columbia County.