February 21, 2013

Maine prison captain charged with assaulting inmate

David Cutler, 54, allegedly tackled and assaulted a handcuffed prisoner. Cutler was arrested Wednesday.

By Eric Russell erussell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A longtime captain at the Maine State Prison in Warren was arrested Wednesday and charged with assaulting an inmate in December.

click image to enlarge

The 2007 file photo shows a section of the Maine State Prison. A longtime captain at the Maine State Prison in Warren was arrested Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2012 and charged with assaulting an inmate during an incident at the prison last December.

Staff File Photo

David Cutler, 54, of Appleton was taken to the Knox County Jail, according to a jail employee. He was not in jail Wednesday night.

Cutler is charged with Class D assault, a misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in prison.

On Christmas Eve, an inmate named Renardo Williams, 36, who is serving a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking, reportedly was tackled and assaulted by Cutler while handcuffed.

A Knox County sheriff's deputy confirmed that Cutler was arrested at his home Wednesday but said he could not provide more information because the investigating authority is the state Department of Corrections.

Jody Breton, associate corrections commissioner, did not respond to requests for comment after Cutler's arrest.

Before his arrest Wednesday afternoon, in response to an inquiry by the Portland Press Herald, Breton said only that Cutler has been "absent from duty" but is still a paid employee. She declined to comment further.

Jim Mackie, who represents the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which includes corrections workers, said he believed that Cutler had been on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.

Mackie said Cutler is not represented by the union, but he would not talk about the investigation because other prison guards were involved.

Mackie, who spoke before Cutler's arrest, said he didn't expect Cutler to return as a prison employee, no matter the outcome of the investigation.

The inmate, who is black, has met with the NAACP of Portland about the incident, said Rachel Talbot Ross, the chapter's president, who provided details of the incident.

Ross said Williams, who has since been transferred to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, did nothing to provoke the assault other than question why black inmates were treated differently in the prison.

"The assault on Mr. Williams is certainly not the first of its kind in which race has been a factor," she said, adding that NAACP officials are scheduled to meet with Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte later this month to discuss race issues at the prison.

Mackie said the incident is indicative of the current culture at the prison. He said the Department of Corrections has been "bending over backwards" to take the word of inmates over the word of employees.

"I think they are more worried about liability than protecting employees," he said.

Stan Moody, a former prison chaplain, said he, too, has seen a shift in the culture at the prison, and not for the better.

Just last month, Warden Patricia Barnhart was dismissed from her job for reasons that have yet to be explained. Barnhart, who had been the prison warden since late 2009, took a new job in the Department of Corrections.

Ponte has appointed Rodney Bouffard, superintendent of the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland, to serve as interim warden.

Mackie, who has defended Barnhart, said Ponte, the commissioner, has not adequately explained the reason for Barnhart's dismissal. "She was doing her job," he said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

erussell@pressherald.com

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell

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