What happened to Frank Valdes is what started my journey/advocacy in Prison Reform. I share with you now because we should never forget. I wont ever forget….and there are many more Frank Valdes’. Just because you dont hear about these atrocities, doesnt mean they are not happening-because they are.
Frank Valdez had broken ribs and boot prints on his body, a state attorney says.
By LUCY MORGAN, SYDNEY P. FREEDBERG and JO BECKER
St. Petersburg Times, published July 20, 1999
A death row inmate whose suspicious death has prompted a criminal investigation suffered broken ribs and boot marks on his upper body after a weekend confrontation with corrections officers at Florida State Prison, a prosecutor said Monday.
Gainesville area State Attorney Rod Smith said he also is looking into a reported delay of several hours between the time of the fight and the time prison authorities sought medical attention for inmate Frank Valdez.
“At first blush it appears that the cause of death had to do with the actions of one or more people in charge of the custody of this individual,” Smith said Monday night.
“I’m told the crap was beat out of him,” Smith said. “He died from blunt trauma—a beating in all likelihood.”
Nine prison guards have been placed on paid administrativeleave by the Department of Corrections. Smith said the guards, whose names were not disclosed, have hired lawyers and are refusing to talk.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting a criminal investigation into the death. Smith said he has notified federal authorities and advised them that he will take the lead in handling the investigation.
The FDLE briefed Gov. Jeb Bush about the investigation Monday. State Corrections Secretary Michael Moore, whom Bush hired from the South Carolina prison system this year, also was present at Monday’s meeting with the governor.
“This is being taken very, very seriously,” said Bush spokesman Cory Tilley.
An attorney for the guards said Monday night that the incident occurred when officers tried to subdue Valdez after he threatened to kill a guard. “All of what was done was done in compliance with department rules and regulations,” said Gloria W. Fletcher, one of the officers’ lawyers.
Valdez, 36, was sentenced to death for killing corrections officer Fred Griffis in Palm Beach County in 1987. Valdez, 5 feet 8, 180 pounds, was an unruly inmate who frequently caused trouble with his guards, according to his lawyer and his ex-wife.
Ed O’Hara, the South Florida lawyer who represented Valdez, said his client had told him he was being “dogged” by guards because he killed a corrections officer.
“They would put him in areas they deemed punitive,” O’Hara said.
The lawyer quoted Valdez: “Whatever I do, they make things more difficult for me because they know I’ve been convicted of killing Griffis.”
A gap in time
The episode began late Saturday morning on X-Wing,
the solitary confinement unit that houses the most
disruptive inmates at Florida State Prison
Fletcher, the officers’ attorney, said the prison dispatched a five-member “extraction team” to Valdez’s cell because he had threatened an officer. They went to search his cell for contraband, but Valdez objected.
According to Fletcher, the officers sprayed a chemical agent at Valdez to get him out of his cell. He was taken to another cell. Officers filed what Bradford County Sheriff Bob Milner called a “use of force” report on the incident.
“When an officer did a routine check, he determined Mr. Valdez was in medical distress and he was taken immediately to the clinic,” Fletcher said.
Paramedics were called to Florida State Prison at 3:25 p.m. Valdez was pronounced dead at Shands Hospital in Starke about 4:18 p.m., according to State Attorney Smith.
Smith said he is trying to determine if there was a lapse between the time the altercation occurred and the time prison authorities sought medical attention for him.
“It is unclear,” Smith said. “But there was force used and reports of it were filed, minor injuries were reported and he was returned to his cell. I don’t know how much time elapsed, but when he was found for the last time around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, he was likely dead or dying.”
Bradford County authorities said two paramedics responded to a call of an inmate with a “respiratory problem.” The medics found Valdez in the prison clinic suffering from “a traumatic injury,” said Nelson Green, director of the Bradford County Department of Emergency Services.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was notified at 4:35 p.m., according to an agency spokeswoman. Bush’s office was not alerted until the next morning.
An agreement between the FDLE and the state
Department of Corrections mandates that the FDLE be notified any time a homicide, suicide, shooting death or any other suspicious death occurs in Florida’s prisons. The FDLE is also supposed to be notified of any life-threatening injuries in which “death is imminent.”
A long rap sheet
Valdez, who had a long rap sheet for burglary, drug
trafficking and assault on a police officer, was sent to death
row for gunning down corrections officer Fred Griffis, 40, a
highly decorated Vietnam veteran, in 1987. Griffis had just
retired from the Army two months before becoming an officer
at the Glades Correctional Institution in Palm Beach County
Officers Griffis and Steve Turner were transporting a manacled prisoner, James O’Brien, to a doctor’s office when Valdez and an ex-prison pal, William Van Poyck, decided to spring O’Brien.
O’Brien had served previous stretches in Florida prisons with Valdez and Van Poyck.
Griffis was shot three times in the head after he refused to give Valdez and Van Poyck the keys to the van O’Brien was locked in and threw the keys in the bushes.
After arriving on death row in 1990, Valdez and Van Poyck had a series of run-ins with officers, which repeatedly landed both men in the toughest disciplinary units of Florida State Prison. The prison, in rural north central Florida, is home of the electric chair and widely regarded as the most maximum security prison in Florida.
In 1993, Van Poyck challenged what he called overly harsh conditions in solitary confinement, suing the Department of Corrections, said his former lawyer, Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute in Miami.
“The conditions were atrocious,” said Berg, adding that Valdez planned to be a witness at Van Poyck’s court showdown.
Berg said neither man had to testify because the
Corrections Department, rather than risk a court battle, agreed to settle with Van Poyck for what the lawyer said was about $45,000 to $50,000.
“The entire way Van Poyck was treated was based on who he allegedly murdered,” Berg contended.
Little information released
Susan Cary, a Gainesville attorney for death row inmates, said that in the past year she has received complaints from inmates of beatings on X-Wing, the solitary confinement unit where prison officials send the hardest disciplinary cases, including Valdez.
About a year ago, she said, she turned over some complaint letters to federal authorities, but she’s not sure what happened. “It’s really a no man’s land,” she said of the prison.
On Monday, corrections officials refused to talk about the wing, Valdez or the prison. They said they did not want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation.
“Until the investigation is completed, we cannot comment further on this matter,” corrections spokesman C.J. Drake said in a news release.
Department officials would not say whether any of the suspended guards had been disciplined previously. They also refused to make public the initial report filed after the incident, even though an assistant attorney general said the report should be public.
Pat Gleason, an assistant for Attorney General Bob Butterworth who specializes in Florida’s public record law, said police agencies must release copies of initial incident reports even when a criminal investigation is ongoing.
She pointed to a 1996 opinion written for St. Petersburg police Chief Darrel Stephens. In that opinion, Butterworth said initial incident reports are generally considered to be open to public inspection and are not considered criminal intelligence.
The Murdering of Mr. Valdes
Frank Valdes was beaten for being human: for loosing it after helplessly listening to a week long series of savage attacks being committed on other inmates.The man closest to him had been targeted for punishment.. Seems several inmates at Hamilton “C”I. had caused a rucus and had been moved to FSP for punishment. The guards had reportedly been literally hanging up the inmates, putting cloth around their heads, and beating them viciously day after day most of the week. Good old boys just having a little fun.
The screams were disturbing to other inmates, and Frank grew desperate as the days went by, until One day he couldn’t take it any longer. He began to scream at the guards to quit, that he was going to tell the outside world about them.
That got their attention alright, and on July 16th, C/O Montres Lucas reportedly beat Frank Valdes severely enough to leave him lying on the floor with a broken jaw. The next day, on July 17th, nine guards, according to most reports, entered Mr. Valdes’ cell early in the morning, woke him, handcuffed him and slowly and methodically beat him to death.
The coronor’s report says all Frank’s ribs were crushed, boot prints were imbedded in his chest, and his testicles were swollen to the size of a man’s head! I got reports from others that when the guards first saw his body it was black from bruising. How did this happen? The guards were asked. “He threw himself off the top bunk over and over, until he did this to himself!”
That’s the DOC’s Story and they’re stickin’ to it!
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