Judge: Man competent for trial in Natchez prison riotPublished 3:26pm Tuesday, December 31, 2013
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that a man is mentally competent to stand trial on charges of participating in a deadly prison riot in Mississippi in 2012.
One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds immigrants convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally.
Humberto Cuellar’s attorney asked in July for his client to undergo a mental evaluation, saying Cuellar displayed extreme anxiety, had experienced hallucinations and thought people were out to get him.
The results of the test are not public, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson said in a ruling last week that there’s no evidence to suggest Cuellar “has any severe mental disease or defect” that would prevent him from standing trial.
Correction officer Catlin Carithers was killed and 20 people were injured as the riot grew to involve hundreds of inmates.
The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies.
The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, the FBI has said.
It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage.
The prison’s special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.