Miami Herald News Reports on Frank Valdes case

February 22, 2002 - Miami AP - Feds to review beating death of Frank Valdes
  MIAMI - (AP) -- The federal government will review the beating death of prison inmate Frank Valdes, said U.S. Justice Department officials. Thursday's announcement came six days after three former prison guards were cleared of all charges in Valdes' murder trial. Valdes died on July 17, 1999, at the Florida State Prison at Starke after being pulled from his cell with 22 broken ribs and fractures of his sternum, vertebrae, nose and jaw and numerous internal injuries. Three former guards, Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36, and Sgts. Charles Brown and Jason Griffis, both 28, were acquitted Feb. 15 of second-degree murder. Five others still face second-degree murder charges for his death. The Justice Department will independently review the entire case to decide whether action is warranted, said Dan Nelson, spokesman for the Justice Department. He would not elaborate. Legal experts said the review will likely determine whether Valdes' civil rights were violated because of excessive
force used by the guards. Usually the federal government does not prosecute after defendants have been cleared in state court, said Christopher Slobogin, professor of criminal law at the University of Florida.But the Justice Department has won some convictions in such cases, including the Rodney King beating case. Two Los Angeles police officers were convicted of civil rights violations after they had been acquitted in King's beating. Gloria Fletcher, attorney for Thornton and spokeswoman for the defense team, said the announcement of a federal review was surprising but the defense will cooperate. North Florida State Attorney William Cervone elcomed the news.  ''If anything viable is to come out of this, it is likely going to have to come from a federal civil rights case,'' he said.
February 4, 2002 - Inmate Testified He Heard Valdes Being Beaten - Trial Of Ex-Prison Guards Enters Fourth Week
STARKE, Fla. -- An inmate testified Monday that he heard guards beating death row inmate
Frank Valdes shortly before he died and made notes about the attack inside his Bible.

Castro Flores (pictured, right), who took the stand in the fourth week of
the state's murder case against three guards, testified about an alleged
second beating of Valdes on July 17, 1999. Flores, who was housed with Valdes on X-wing at Florida State Prison, testified he heard screaming and yelling from the quarterdeck, the    cellblock's lobby area. "I know somebody is getting whupped," Flores said, adding he heard the sounds "a hand makes on a body." He explained, "I figured it was an inmate getting beat up." 
Valdez (pictured, left) already had been taken to the prison clinic after the first alleged attack earlier in the day.The guards then hauled Valdesto his X-wing cell and checked on him frequently, Flores said.He said he took notes in his Bible about the beating and other abuse. He wrote in the white space at the bottom of 2 Corinthians, Chapter 13, beside the verse that reads, "For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth." "I was keeping track of all the assaults happening in the institution," he said. 

                  Flores said he heard Valdes quit moaning about 3 p.m., and he was found unconscious in his
                  cell about 15 minutes later. He died from severe internal injuries and had a boot print on his
                  back. On cross-examination, Flores testified he had read news accounts and heard talk of Valdes'
                  death. He also said he had been treated for depression at a prison hospital.
                  The guards charged with second-degree murder in Valdes' death are: Capt. Timothy Thornton,
                  36, Sgt. Charles Brown, 28, and Sgt. Jason Griffis, 28.
                  Valdes had been sentenced to death for killing a Palm Beach County prison guard. Prosecutors
                  charge he was killed to keep him from contacting news media about repeated abuse of inmates
                  by X-wing guards.
                  An inmate librarian testified last week that Valdes had been told by a prison sergeant that he
                  would be killed after the warden went on vacation July 16.
                  Defense attorneys claim Valdes was fatally injured by throwing himself off the bars in his cell
                  into his bunk and the floor. Other guards are to be tried later.

St. Petersburg Time - February 1, 2002 - STARKE --An inmate law librarian testified Thursday in the murder trial of three former Florida State Prison guards that death row inmate Frank Valdes was worried that guards planned to kill him. "He said he was going to be killed and that he wasn't going to live to be electrocuted," said Robert Krebs, 64, who is serving a 75-year sentence for robbery and burglary from Seminole County.
Krebs was one of three inmates who testified Thursday as the state began advancing its motive -- that Valdes was killed to prevent him from contacting the media about alleged abuse of inmates by guards.  "He said people were being beaten on X Wing and he wanted to lobby media support," Krebs testified.  Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36; Sgt. Charles Brown, 28; and Sgt. Jason Griffis, 28, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Valdes, who was sentenced to die for the murder of a Palm Beach County prison guard.  Earlier Thursday, the case against Sgt. Andrew Lewis, 31, was severed from the trial after Circuit Judge Larry Turner ruled that testimony about a conspiracy involving Thornton, Brown and Griffis could confuse jurors.  No charges were dropped against Lewis, however, and he will stand trial later with three other former guards also accused of
Valdes' murder.  Neither Lewis nor his attorney, Andrew Vloedman, would comment.  In his testimony, Krebs said Valdes visited him twice in the days before his death.  On July 8, Valdes came to the library to look up addresses of Florida newspapers and returned on July 15 to ask Krebs to mail about 10 letters to newspapers for him. Krebs refused. "He was very agitated," Krebs said. Krebs said Valdes had been told by Sgt. Montrez Lucas that he would be killed when prison superintendent James Crosby went on vacation July 16. He told Krebs that letters he had tried to mail earlier were torn up by Lucas, who is scheduled to stand trial later.
Also testifying Thursday was Willie C. Mathews, 28, who is serving 32 years for five felonies, including assaulting a guard during a near-riot at Hamilton Correctional Institution at Jasper.  Mathews was transferred to Florida State Prison from Hamilton along with four other inmates. After the melee, a guard suffered a miscarriage and Florida State Prison officers blamed the inmates.  Mathews said he was beaten repeatedly after arriving at Florida State and that Brown broke his jaw in two places. The broken jaw went untreated for several days and Mathews said he was warned to keep quiet about it.  "Capt. Thornton said he would send me home feet-first in a pine box," Mathews said.  Valdes, he said, complained to the guards.  "He told them to stop beating me," he said. Mathews became annoyed when defense attorney Gloria Fletcher questioned him about details prior to the killing. "You are not worried about the fact that they jumped on that man and killed that man," Mathews said.
Another former Hamilton inmate, Charles Jerry, serving a life sentence out of Brevard County for robbery with a firearm, also testified about being beaten by some of the guards.  Both inmates said they were forced to wear cones on their heads and threatened with a beating if they fell off. They also both testified that guards beat them after placing pillowcases on their heads.  An autopsy showed Valdes suffered 22 broken ribs and a broken jaw, sternum, collarbone, shoulder, spine and nose.  Defense attorneys claim Valdes was fatally injured by throwing himself off the bars in his cell into his bunk and the floor, and some have suggested that the guards who will be tried later may have been responsible for Valdes' death.

ONE GUARD REMOVED - Judge removes one defendant from Frank Valdes death trial - 1/31/2002
STARKE, Fla. (AP) - A judge Thursday declared a mistrial for one of four prison guards being tried on murder charges in the fatal beating of a death row inmate. Sgt. Andrew Lewis, 31, will be tried later in the year with four other guards, Circuit Judge Larry Turner ordered. Turner said the state hadn't provided enough evidence linking Lewis to an alleged conspiracy to attack inmate Frank Valdes. Valdes, 36, was fatally injured on July 17, 1999, on X-Wing at Florida State Prison. Andrew Vloedman, who represents Lewis, refused comment on the judge's approval of his motion for mistrial. The motion leaves Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36; Sgt. Charles Brown 28, and Sgt. Jason Griffis, 28, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Valdes, who had been sentenced to die for the murder of a Palm Beach County prison guard. An autopsy showed he suffered 22 broken ribs and a broken jaw, sternum, collarbone, shoulder, spine and nose. Prosecutors say Valdes was gathering information about mistreatment of the five Hamilton inmates by these guards and planned to go to the news media. They say he was beaten to keep him quiet. The guards argue that Valdes might have hurt himself by flinging himself off his bars onto the concrete floor, or he might have been killed by the other guards set to stand trial later this year.

GUARD'S TESTIMONY DIFFERS FROM TAPE - Inmate Valdes' violent extraction is detailed
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2002
STARKE -- A former state prison guard, testifying with immunity from prosecution, described for nearly three hours Tuesday death row inmate Frank Valdes' violent ``extraction'' when he refused to come out of his cell.
Valdes, 36, a Miami career criminal convicted of killing a guard in 1987, was found unconscious and not breathing several hours after the July 17, 1999, incident. Four guards are on trial, charged with second-degree murder in the prisoner's death. Under heavy cross-examination by defense attorney Ted Curtis, the state's star witness told a tamer version of Valdes' encounter with the guards than he did in a videotaped statement to prosecutors two years ago. Raymon Hanson, 33, left out some of the potentially incriminating details that were prominent in his videotaped interview, which was made public last week.  Hanson, at six feet four inches tall and 310 pounds, was the largest of the extraction team. He carried an electrified stun shield to subdue Valdes. He admitted kicking Valdes while he was down and defenseless and falsifying a ``use of force'' document. He testified that one of the defendants, Charles Brown, 28, gave Valdes ``a very violent kick in the midsection.''

``Who are you going to kill now?'' Hanson said, quoting Brown.

But in his videotaped statement in January 2000, Hanson described the conversation in the ready room while the officers were putting on protective clothing for the cell extraction: ``We were going to go down there and teach him that that you can't be threatening officers, that some physical punishment was going to have to be inflicted on him.''  On the stand Tuesday, he denied that any threatening statements were made. In his videotaped statement, Hanson said that defendant Jason Griffis had hit Valdes in the stomach while the inmate was in the prison clinic after the cell extraction. During Tuesday's testimony, that issue never came up.  Hanson said in 2000 that other guards were punching Valdes while he lay on the floor of his tiny cell on X-wing, where Death Row prisoners are housed. Tuesday, he said the guards were merely laying on him.  Hanson told jurors that guard Timothy Thornton grabbed Valdes' head and administered an electric shock to his forehead with a stun device that guards use to restrain inmates. The fourth defendant is Andrew Lewis.

Asked why he didn't try to stop the attack, Hanson said: ``I didn't want to be labeled an `inmate lover.' '' Tuesday, January 15, 2002 Guards' trial moved back at 8:03 a.m. EST Monday, January 14, 2002 Opening statements scheduled in Starke trial of inmate death Friday, January 11, 2002 Guards beat Valdes to silence him, inmates testify Wednesday, January 9, 2002 Inmatedeath trial stirs little interest in prison town Tuesday, January 8, 2002 Guards' trial nearing a starting point Tuesday, December 18, 2001 State wants to move guards' trial Tuesday, December 18, 2001 Change of venue requested for guards Inmates to testify against guards in Valdez caseJan 14, 2002 Inmates to Testify Against Guards Charged in Prison DeathBy Ron Word
Associated Press Writer

STARKE, Fla. (AP) Inmates can testify that some of the Florida State Prison guards charged with fatally beating a condemned prisoner also beat them, a judge ruled Monday.

Circuit Judge Larry Turner called the testimony relevant to the prosecution's case. Prosecutors plan to tell the jury during Wednesday's opening statements that Frank Valdes was killed because he planned to tell the media about the prisoners' mistreatment.

Opening statements in the seconddegree murder trial had been scheduled for Monday, but the debate over whether to allow the inmates' testimony delayed them for two days. The inmates who will testify were transferred to Florida State Prison from Hamilton Correctional Institution after a disturbance and say they were beaten upon their arrival.

Capt. Timothy Thornton, 36; Sgt. Jason Griffis, 28; Sgt. Charles Brown, 28; Sgt. Andrew Lewis, 31; and Sgt. Donald Stanford, 53, are charged with the July 17, 1999, death of Valdes, who was facing execution for the 1987 murder of a Palm Beach County prison guard.

Thornton, Brown, Griffis and Lewis are also charged with aggravated battery. The guards deny beating Valdes, saying he killed himself.

Assistant State Attorney Greg McMahon and four defense attorneys are expected to spend Wednesday outlining their cases to the jury a panel of five men and one woman.

Valdes was housed on Xwing at Florida State Prison, which is usually reserved for the toughest prisoners, including some on death row.

Two autopsies showed Valdes received fractures on his jaw, sternum, collarbone, shoulder, spine, nose and 22 of his ribs. An imprint of a boot was also found on his chest and neck.

Valdes received "multiple blunt trauma injuries that are highly characteristic of assault," according to a report by Dr. Robert Kirschner, who was hired by Valdes' family to conduct an independent autopsy.

An autopsy by Dr. William Hamilton, the medical examiner in Gainesville, found similar results. He said the probable cause of death was from a beating.

But the guards say Valdes was injured when he repeatedly threw himself off his bunk onto the floor.

"The facts are the facts. There is no credible evidence that these officers did anything to contribute to the death of Frank Valdes," said Gloria Fletcher, a Gainesville attorney representing Thornton and a spokeswoman for the defense.

Prosecutors are likely to call several inmates, many who said they heard and saw the beating, said Spencer Mann, a prosecution spokesman.

A former guard, Raymon C. Hanson, was also expected to testify for the prosecution. He was one of the officers who helped remove Valdes from his cell the day before he died.

Hanson, who has been held in protective custody in a secret location, agreed to testify that the official account of the "cell extraction" was false.

Agents and technicians with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as well as Department of Corrections officials, including former Warden James Crosby, are also expected to be called as witnesses.

Four other guards will later stand trial for the slaying.