published Friday, November 1st, 2013

Former Alabama prison employees get sentenced Monday

By PHILLIP RAWLS

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge plans to announce Monday the sentences for four former prison employees who were involved in the fatal beating of an inmate or tried to cover it up.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson listened Thursday as family and friends of the defendants described them as good, church-going men with no history of violence, while a prison warden reported that he had counseled one of them about being overly aggressive with inmates. The testimony came during the fourth day of a sentencing hearing.

The four are facing sentencing in the Aug. 4, 2010, beating death of Rocrast Mack at Ventress state prison in Clayton.

Mack, 24, was serving a 20-year sentence for a drug conviction from Montgomery County when he was beaten at the medium-security prison. A prison supervisor, former Lt. Michael Smith, was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction and violating Mack's constitutional rights by fatally beating him. Testimony at his trial showed he beat Mack with a fiberglass baton, stood on his neck and stomped his head.

Two former Ventress officers -- Scottie Glenn and Matthew Davidson -- pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violating Mack's rights by hitting him. Sanders, also a guard, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying to prison investigators while Mack was being treated at the hospital, including saying he didn't see Smith beat Mack with the baton.

Louis Boyd, a state prison warden, said he used to be Smith's supervisor at a state prison in Bullock County and suspended him for inappropriate use of force on an inmate, including hitting the inmate repeatedly after he was on the floor. He said he also counseled Smith.

"That's not the person I married. That's not the person I fell in love with," Smith's wife, Joeretta Smith, told the judge.

She described him as a loving father to three sons and a man who so passionate about his work that he kept his prison uniforms pressed and hanging in his closet after he was fired.

"He was extremely proud to work with the Department of Corrections," she said.

She said she understood the difficulty her family is facing with her husband possibly looking at a long sentence, but she also expressed compassion for Mack's family.

"The Mack family can't see their loved one and I can," she said.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Smith and lesser sentences for the others.

Prosecutor Patricia Sumner told the judge that Smith deserves a long sentence because "Lt. Smith was the leader of the assault."

Defense attorney Christine Freeman said Smith heard a female guard use a prison radio to scream for help that an inmate had jumped on her, and Smith went into a rage after seeing blood on the guard's face. She said he did not intentionally set out to fatally beat the inmate.

The judge said he wanted the weekend to think about the sentences.

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