NY prison guards accused of gang assault on inmate

December 13, 2011 - 6:00 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Four Attica guards attacked and seriously injured a jewelry thief serving a two-to-four year sentence at the maximum-security prison in western New York, prosecutors said Tuesday.

The four men — Keith Swack, 37, Sean Warner, 37, Matthew Raddemacher, 29, and Erik Hibsch, 28 — were arrested Tuesday and indicted on felony charges of gang assault, conspiracy and tampering with physical evidence.

Inmate George Williams, 29, who was convicted of larceny for stealing jewelry from two Manhattan stores in 2008 and 2009, suffered broken bones and fractures in the Aug. 9 attack, state police said.

Authorities provided no further details on the circumstances of the attack. But Swack's attorney, Joel Daniels, maintained the altercation occurred when the guards learned that Williams "may have had a blade and drugs in his cell."

In the previous weeks, Daniels said, prison authorities had recovered "over 70 weapons — knives, shanks, razor blades — from inmates in searches of cells. And a lot of those weapons came from the same C Block where this inmate was."

"When you go to work at a max like Attica, that's no day at the beach these days," Daniels added. "When a jury hears the evidence, we are very confident it will do the right thing."

Williams was moved to another prison near Buffalo and is still recovering from his injuries, which are not considered life-threatening, state police said.

The guards appeared at an arraignment Tuesday along with their lawyers, and bail was set at $25,000 each. No pleas were entered. They were ordered back to court Feb. 7.

The four also were charged with official misconduct, a misdemeanor. In addition, Warner was charged with a felony count of submitting false statements to the prison. Gang assault, the most serious charge, carries a sentence of five years to 25 years.

The arrests came after a four-month investigation by the state Department of Corrections, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Inspector General's Office.

"What everyone needs to remember as this case goes forward is that this is an indictment of four individuals and not an indictment on the noble profession of corrections officer," Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O'Geen said. "No one is above the law."

In September 1971, police fired more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition in six minutes in quelling a four-day inmate uprising at Attica. In all, 11 corrections officers and 32 inmates died. All but four were shot to death when state troopers retook the prison.