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Defense goes on offense in trials of former jail guards

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/York Daily Record-Sunday News | Jan 7, 2016 2:18 AM
York_county_prison.jpg

The York County prison work-release facility on Concord Road in Springettsbury Township.(Photo: Kate Penn - Daily Record/Sunday News)

Daniel Graff, 40; David Whitcomb, 30; and Mark Haynes, 28, are accused of coercing inmates into fighting and doing demeaning stunts.

(York) -- Steve Rice stood to cross-examine a witness on Wednesday during the trials of three former York County Prison corrections officers who are accused of coercing inmates into fighting and doing demeaning stunts, and posed a question.

"Can we at least agree," Rice said to Capt. Adam Ogle, who sat in June 25, 2013, as three inmates making these accusations were interviewed, "if there had been a recording, that we wouldn't need a judge and three attorneys and prosecutors and jury to try and figure out what may have been said or not said during an exchange between you and an inmate?"

"I asked for their statements on paper," Ogle said. "There's no hearsay in my mind."

Rice is a defense attorney representing Daniel Graff, a former guard who's on trial this week.

Graff, 40, of York; David Whitcomb, 30, of Hellam Township; and Mark Haynes, 28, of Jacobus, are each charged with official oppression and criminal conspiracy. They're accused, for example, of pressuring two inmates into fighting in a closet on the jail's South Block.

On the second day of the trial, the defense not only attacked the fact there were no recordings of those interviews. They went after the thoroughness of the investigation, while continuing to question the credibility of the first inmate who testified.

Chris Ferro, Haynes' attorney, questioned Capt. William Wagner about his part in the investigation. Ferro asked Wagner where his original notes went, and if he tried listening to calls made by David Wright, the inmate who testified Tuesday.

"Did you ever go to the administration and say, 'Hey, I'm trying to investigate these incredibly serious allegations that could potentially take a good young man and destroy him?'" Ferro said.

Only the administration could listen to calls, Wagner said. So he passed on the information.

The trials seem to focus on the time between May 23 to May 28, 2013. That's when the inmates making the allegations were on the South Block.

Wright, 29, said he was choked on May 27, 2013. Wright testified he fought another inmate -- and a guard -- in the closet.  Wright said a different guard punched him in the face when he wouldn't give up.

Video from then shows a guard quickly put his arm around Wright's neck. The footage ends seconds later.

Deputy Warden Clair Doll testified that he reviewed video from the time, only keeping clips he found unusual.

So on cross-examination from Korey Leslie, who's representing Whitcomb, Doll said he would find it "difficult" to believe that all of what Wright described happened in one day.

Later, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kelley Nelson called James Hicks, 30, a former inmate at York County Prison, to testify.

Hicks said he fought Wright in the closet; let a guard choke him; and tried to drink more than one gallon of milk in one hour. The events, he said, were called the "Retard Olympics."

That was done, Hicks said, in exchange for food. Hicks said he's never claimed to be anything other than "a willing participant."

The fight, he said, happened on May 26, 2013. That's because surveillance footage shows him eating after leaving the area of the closet.

Said Hicks: "I remember that day."


This article comes to us through a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in News, York

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