Riot participant to change plea

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NATCHEZ — A man indicted in the May 2012 prison riot in Adams County that killed a guard and injured dozens of prison personnel and prisoners will be in court today and is expected to withdraw his earlier pea of “not guilty.”

Yoany Oriel Serrano-Bejarano pleaded not guilty to the charges of mutiny and riot in October, but in January filed a notice of intent to change plea. His change of plea hearing is set for 11 a.m. today in U.S. district court in Natchez.

Court filings against Serrano Bejarano allege he helped rioters gain access to the roof of one of Adams County Correctional Center’s buildings by stacking food carts. The guard who was killed in the seven-hour riot — Catlin Carithers, 24 — was on the roof of one of the buildings, where he was working to contain the prisoner uprising when he received the blunt force injuries that ultimately claimed his life.

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The testimony of another prisoner who admitted to being a participant in the riot said he saw Serrano-Bejarano assaulting a correctional officer who was taken hostage during the riot, according to previous filings with the court.

The riot started when an informal group of Mexican nationals — known as Paisas, which means “countrymen” — started a mass disobedience to express displeasure with how they perceived the prison to be operated. The inmates reportedly became violent after prison officials tried to contain the disobedience.

Another inmate, Juan Lopez-Fuentes, was sentenced to 40 months and $1.3 million in restitution for his participation in the riot.

Adams County Correctional Center is a federal immigration prison and is operated by Corrections Corporation of America and is located just east of Natchez.