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Sentence for inmate in prison riot reduced in return for aiding authorities

NATCHEZ — The first inmate charged in the May 20 prison riot that left one man dead will serve 40 months in prison and pay $1.3 million in restitution.

Federal Judge David Bramlette handed down the sentence to Juan Lopez-Fuentes Monday.

Bramlette granted a written motion from the U.S. government requesting the sentence be reduced because of the “substantial assistance” Lopez-Fuentes has given the FBI in the case.

Bramlette said Lopez-Fuentes has helped the FBI identify more than 30 inmates who participated in the riot at the Adams County Correctional Facility.

Speaking through a translator, Lopez-Fuentes apologized for his role in the riot. He said he would like to continue helping the FBI in their investigation of other inmates involved in the riot who assaulted prison guards.

Before the sentencing Lopez-Fuentes’ lawyer, Matt Tyrone, asked the court to be considerate of his client’s cooperation with the government, as well as his admission of participating in the riot before he was criminally charged.

Tyrone also said Lopez-Fuentes had no previous violent crime charges and was not involved in assaulting prison guards during the riot.

Lopez-Fuentes’ prison time will be followed by three years of supervised release. At that point, he will be turned over to immigration officers. Lopez-Fuentes must not reenter the country without written permission from the director of homeland security.

The restitution is the amount of estimated damage that occurred at the facility during the riot and will be paid in conjunction with any other inmates convicted in the riot case. The payment schedule set by Bramlette requires Lopez-Fuentes make a $20 minimum payment monthly after he is released from prison.

Lopez-Fuentes pleaded guilty in late August to taking part in the riot. At least two other inmates, Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano and Pedro De Los Reyes, have been charged in connection with the incident.

According to earlier court filings, the riot started during a mass movement when the alleged leadership of a group of Mexican nationals known as Paisas — it means “countrymen” — told the members of the group to disobey orders from prison officials until a list of demands could be presented to the prison’s administration. The filing states the inmates were disgruntled about the food, medical service and “disrespectful staff members” at the prison.

When prison officials tried to contain the disobedience, it erupted into a full-scale riot that lasted from approximately 2 to 9 p.m. May 20, eventually contained by the prison’s special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s SWAT team.

During the riot, inmates destroyed prison facilities, raided food and commissary services, took correctional officers hostage and used ladders and stacked food service carts to climb onto the roof of prison buildings and assault guards there, including Catlin Carithers, 24, who later died from injuries he received in the assault.

The court filings indicated Lopez-Fuentes had been identified as one of the inmates who was present in an area where correctional officers were being held hostage.

“Lopez-Fuentes would quiet the crowd of rioting inmates and then give (correctional officers) orders to relay to (authorities),” the filing states, orders that included for responders to drop their weapons or hostages would be harmed.

The filing also states that Lopez-Fuentes acknowledged to being part of the riot, and stole items from the commissary, broke windows in a housing unit and was in possession of a staff member’s radio.

Serrano-Bejarano has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Reyes has not yet been arraigned.

A federal immigration prison, Adams County Correctional Center houses approximately 2,500 inmates and is operated by Corrections Corporation of America.

 

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