Six correctional officers accused of lying about inmate attack

by Dana DiFilippo, New Jersey Monitor

Six correctional officers have been criminally charged and accused of pepper-spraying and injuring a compliant inmate while forcibly removing him from his cell, acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said Friday.

The officers — a sergeant and five senior correctional officers — then lied and tried to cover up the April 2020 incident as a justified use of force, Platkin said.

The inmate was left screaming in pain, covered in blood, and in need of medical treatment in the prison’s infirmary for facial cuts and breathing difficulties, he added. The incident occurred at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, a state prison in Chesterfield that houses offenders ages 18 to 30.

“Correctional police officers are entrusted with great authority over the inmates in their custody, and when they abuse that power, they must be held accountable,” Platkin said in a statement.

Sgt. Michael Emmert, 37, of Toms River, faces the most serious charges: two counts of aggravated assault and one count of tampering with public records or information.

He’s accused of repeatedly pepper-spraying the inmate in the face without giving him an opportunity to comply, even though the inmate offered to be handcuffed. He then lied in reports that the inmate refused orders to be handcuffed, blocked a food port, and tried to “mule kick” a shield, actions refuted by video and photographic evidence, according to Platkin’s office.

Five senior correctional officers were charged with tampering with public records or information:

  • Christopher Toth, 37, of New Egypt, is accused of using his shield to hold the inmate in his cell as the door closed and lying in reports about the inmate attacking him
  • Raymond Quinones, 43, of Beachwood, who’s accused of forcibly removing the inmate from his cell and lying in reports that he was combative and non-compliant
  • Michael Gaines, 56, of Willingboro, is accused of forcibly removing the inmate from his cell and lying about it in reports
  • Mark Sadlowski, Jr., 44, of Sewell, who’s accused of forcibly extracting the inmate from his cell and lying about it in reports
  • Michael Ambrozaitis, 58, of Southampton, is accused of putting leg irons on the inmate and lying about it in reports

State Department of Corrections policy allows officers to use force if it’s “objectively necessary and reasonable” and requires an inmate to be given a chance to comply before a forced cell extraction occurs.

Prisons and correctional facilities top the list of law enforcement agencies with the most major discipline reported, according to a public database the Attorney General’s Office maintains.

More than a dozen correctional officers at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women were criminally charged for similarly violent cell extractions in January 2021 that left several inmates injured. Those attacks led to state officials announcing the planned closure of the troubled prison.

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