Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys

It hasn't made the headlines of the New York or Los Angeles Times yet, but seven prison guards working at the United States Penitentiary at Florence, Colorado face charges of abusing and torturing prisoners. US grand jury indictments handed down on November 2, 2000 in Denver, Colorado are the result of a 2 1/2 year old investigation described by the press as having "moved slowly." The headlines in Denver, Colorado early November read: 7 guards indicted in inmate abuse case; Federal prisoners allegedly tortured; Charges brand prison's 'Cowboys'.

Dropping handcuffed inmates on their faces, smashing prisoner's heads into walls, kneeing prisoners in the kidneys, squeezing their testicles, putting feces and urine in the prisoner's food and falsifying reports are only a few of the crimes that the guards are accused of.

As of mid November, three former guards of USP Florence, not named in the indictment have pled guilty to misdemeanors in exchange for prosecutorial and judicial leniency.

The investigation began over two years ago, and in early November four of the guards were still working at the Florence prison. The US attorney's office issued a batch of summonses in lieu of having the guards arrested, ordering the men to appear in U.S. District court in Denver on November 16th to stand before Judge Wiley Daniel. The judge has been privy to the stories coming out of the Florence prison for some time and so have other prison and criminal justice officials.

Three years ago prisoner William Turner was accused of pulling a guard's arm through the bars of his cell and stabbing him with a toothbrush handle. That's a confession that would add an automatic twelve years to William Turner's sentence. Turner was able to show the court that the "confession" came after being beaten senseless and 4 days in the "hole" so sick and weak he couldn't use the toilet.

Charges against William were dropped when Assistant U.S. Attorney George Gill learned about the "Cowboys".

One of the alleged guard gang members, Lt. David Armstrong, made a deal with the Justice Department and last July gave chilling testimony in Judge Wiley Daniel's courtroom, naming eight guards and testifying that the "Cowboys" were a wrecking gang, assaulting and intimidating prisoners.

Former Federal of Bureau Prison's officer, Charlotte Gutierrez, was one of the so named, the only woman in the gang according to Armstrong. Gutierrez accepted an offer early this year to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges. Three months ago, Jake Geiger, a former guard at USP Florence pled guilty to a misdemeanor of splitting a prisoner's lip with his fist.

Five of the accused guards were alleged members of the "Cowboys", the other two said to be guards that abused prisoners but not members of the "Cowboys", according to the indictment.

The indictment lists 52 incidents against seven inmates, a total of nine counts of depriving prisoners of their civil rights while acting in an official capacity. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

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