Erin Sharma

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Erin J. Sharma (born April 24, 1976) is a former correction officer for the United States Bureau of Prisons. She was sentenced to life in federal prison in 2009 for causing the beating death of an inmate at the maximum security unit of the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex near Coleman, Florida. Prosecutors said that after inmate Richard Delano grabbed her arm through a food slot and bruised it, she arranged for him to be assigned to share a cell with a notoriously violent inmate, knowing Delano would be harmed.[1]

Inmate death[edit]

On February 3, 2005, Richard Allen Delano, a convicted methamphetamine dealer, grabbed Sharma's arm through a food slot, bruising it. She then said to him, "You're a dead man".[1]She received minor first aid treatment and was sent home for the rest of the day.[2] On March 1, Delano, who had a reputation as a snitch,[3] was transferred into a cell with John Javilo McCullah, a convicted murderer who had assaulted all of his previous cellmates. Prior to the transfer, witnesses overheard Sharma encouraging McCullah to attack Delano, but to do so on a day when she was not at work.[4]

On March 4, while Sharma was on a three-day vacation, Delano was beaten into a coma, dying 13 days later. Sharma was charged with depriving Delano of his civil rights by conspiring to have him killed, and with violating his Constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.[1]

Trial[edit]

At the federal trial in Orlando, the prosecution showed that Sharma and an alleged corrections officer co-conspirator knew that McCullah, who had been placed on special single-cell hold status, was likely to assault Delano.[4] In his opening statement, federal prosecutor Douglas Kern told the jury that putting Delano into a cell with McCullah "was like putting a sheep in a cage with a wolf". Kern described McCullah as a "hugely violent, racist gang member inmate" who was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. He described Sharma as the "puppet master," and McCullah as her puppet.[1]

FBI Agent James Raby testified about three unrecorded interviews conducted with Sharma following the assault. Raby said Sharma had acknowledged knowing Delano's reputation as a snitch, knowing that McCullah was notoriously violent, and knowing that the shared cell arrangement would invariably lead to an assault. He said Sharma had expressed regret about the assault. Various witnesses described Sharma as a vengeful officer who played favorites and hated snitches.[2]

When her own turn to testify came, Sharma denied having made the statements that Raby testified to, and denied telling him that she felt "haunted" by the assault. She said her threats were clearly jokes, and that she "treated those inmates almost like they were my kids."[2]

On July 29, 2009, the jury found Sharma guilty of two felony federal civil rights violations.[5]

Sentence[edit]

On October 26, 2009, Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia C. Fawsett sentenced the 33-year-old Sharma to life in prison based on the crime of second-degree murder, which was caused by Sharma's violating Delano's civil rights. Judge Fawsett said Delano's death was "an expectable result" of the transfer. Fawsett also found that Sharma had perjured herself on the witness stand when she disputed Agent Raby's testimony. The perjury finding qualified Sharma for a two-level obstruction of justice upward adjustment in the federal sentencing guidelines, to life in prison.[3] Sharma's attorney said he would file an appeal.[4][6] The appeal failed, and on August 24, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit of the US Court of Appeals affirmed Sharma's convictions and life sentence.

The location where Erin Sharma is serving her sentence is something of a mystery. According to the Federal Bureau of Prison's website, Sharma is assigned to the Residential Reentry Management Field Office in Sacramento, CA. This is not a prison facility, but rather is an administrative designation for inmates assigned to home-confinement, "halfway-houses", or state and county correctional facilities in the Sacramento area. [7] Since she is serving a life sentence, this designation almost certainly means that she is currently being held in a California Department of Corrections facility. However, a search of the California Department of Corrections inmate database does not reveal anyone being held under her name. This suggests that she is being held under an alias, which would not be unusual for a former correctional officer.

Following the fatal assault, McCullah was temporarily transferred to the United States Penitentiary, Florence ADX, the federal supermax prison in Colorado. After this he was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution, Victorville, a medium security facility in California. Currently he is serving his sentence in the Special Management Unit at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg. [8][9]

Second officer[edit]

During Sharma's trial, agent Raby testified that it was Michael Kennedy, Sharma's supervisor at Coleman, who proposed the cell transfer, believing that McCullah would give Delano "a good [butt] kicking and head-knocking". On November 2, 2009, the U.S. Justice Department announced that a grand jury had indicted Kennedy on one count of conspiring to violate Delano's federal civil rights and one count of violating his civil rights by arranging for another inmate to assault him.[10][11]

On July 8, 2010, Kennedy was found guilty of both civil rights counts. The jury did not reach a unanimous finding that the violations resulted in Delano's death. Kennedy was sentenced to nine years in federal prison.[12][13][14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lee, Suevon (July 20, 2009). "Prosecutor: 'Puppet master' prison guard arranged attack on inmate". Star-Banner. Retrieved October 30, 2009. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c Lee, Suevon (July 28, 2009). "Guard testifies she treated inmates 'like they were my kids'". Star-Banner. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Lee, Suevon (October 26, 2009). "Ex-corrections officer gets life in prison". Star-Banner. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c Edwards, Amy L (October 26, 2009). "Ex-prison guard sentenced to life in inmate death case". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Former Federal Corrections Officer Sentenced to Life in Prison on Civil Rights Charges Related to Fatal Assault". United States Department of Justice. October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  6. ^ Lee, Suevon (October 29, 2009). "Guard going to prison, but what one will it be?". Star-Banner. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  7. ^ http://www.bop.gov/locations/ccm/csc/
  8. ^ http://www.ocala.com/article/20091027/ARTICLES/910271010/1001/NEWS01?Title=Guard-sentenced-to-life-in-prison
  9. ^ http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Transaction=IDSearch&needingMoreList=false&IDType=IRN&IDNumber=03040-063&x=99&y=14
  10. ^ Lee, Suevon (November 3, 2009). "Second guard indicted in inmate's death". Star-Banner. Retrieved November 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Former Federal Corrections Officer Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Related to Fatal Assault". United States Department of Justice. November 2, 2009. Retrieved February 4, 2010. 
  12. ^ Lee, Suevon (July 10, 2010). "2nd former corrections officer is found guilty". Star-Banner. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  13. ^ Weiner, Jeff (December 15, 2010). "Former corrections officer sentenced to 9 years in federal prison". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved December 19, 2010. 
  14. ^ http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Transaction=IDSearch&needingMoreList=false&IDType=IRN&IDNumber=13991-078&x=106&y=20