Five more correctional officers charged in inmate assaults at women’s prison

By: - December 16, 2021 6:58 am

Five more correctional officers have been charged in brutal beatings that took place at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women last January, bringing the total to 15 charged. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck announced criminal charges Wednesday against four senior correctional police officers and the administrator who was in charge of the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women on the night last January when the officers allegedly severely beat and injured several inmates.

The new charges bring to 15 the total number of people charged in the ongoing investigation into the incident at New Jersey’s only women’s prison. All either participated in or directed the assaults, Bruck said.

“We promised to follow the facts wherever they go, and that’s exactly what we’ve done,” Bruck said. “We are holding accountable everyone who was involved in January’s brutal assaults, from the line officers working the cell block to the highest-ranking prison official on duty that night. With today’s charges, we are making clear that even the senior-most leadership at Edna Mahan must be held responsible for their illegal conduct.”

The assaults happened in the overnight hours between Jan. 11 and Jan. 12, after officers and supervisors at the prison in Clinton forcibly removed inmates in the Restorative Housing Unit from their cells. The officers then wrote up false reports to cover up the incident, leaving out the excessive force and other details, Bruck said.

Charged Thursday were:

Sean St. Paul was the administrator in charge at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility the night of the assaults. (Photo courtesy of the Attorney General’s Office)

  • Former Department of Corrections Associate Administrator Sean St. Paul, 55, of Newark,  with official misconduct, conspiracy, and tampering with public records.
  • Major Ryan Valentin, 44, of Bloomfield, with official misconduct, conspiracy, and tampering with public records.
  • Senior Correctional Police Officer Desiree Lewis, 33, of Elizabeth, with aggravated assault and tampering with public records. Lewis allegedly punched one inmate in the head and neck about 28 times, leaving the victim with a concussion. She also used pepper spray and used force even though the inmate wasn’t resisting, Bruck said.
  • Senior Correctional Police Officer Brandon Burgos, 22, of Roseland, with tampering with public records.
  • Senior Correctional Police Officer Marika Sprow, 32, of West Orange, with tampering with public records.

The most serious charges carry prison sentences of up to 10 years and fines up to $150,000.

“We will continue our investigation until we have charged all who played a role in these unconscionable assaults,” said Thomas Eicher, executive director of the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “We are committed to protecting those in state custody, and that means prosecuting any officers or officials who take action to harm inmates or who fail to intervene against and report such conduct in violation of their duties.”

Some of the officers charged had histories of disciplinary infractions and violence — histories their bosses were unaware of, according to an investigatory report on the incident released in June. The report also found that prison officials repeatedly failed to adopt reforms.

Gov. Phil Murphy said in June that the prison will be shut down.

Bruck and Eicher urged anyone with information about the incident to report it at 844-OPIA-TIPS.


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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.