WILKES-BARRE — Three inmates accused of inciting a riot at an area prison in 2010 testified Tuesday in Luzerne County Court that a cycle of retaliation by vengeful corrections officers spurred their behavior.
Andre Jacobs, 33, Carrington Keys, 35, and Duane Peter, 44, were charged with rioting after prosecutors say the three men on April 29, 2010, barricaded themselves inside their cells in the restricted housing unit at State Correctional Institution at Dallas in an act of protest against alleged mistreatment.
An extraction team forcibly removed the men, along with fellow inmates Anthony Locke, Anthony Kelly and Derrick Stanley, from their cells after they were given several orders to remove the coverings from their cell doors — a violation of the prisons code — and didn’t comply.
Jacobs, who is representing himself, testified Tuesday he filed at least two dozen grievances against corrections officers at SCI Dallas, but each complaint that hinged on a guard’s credibility was denied and, as a result, he was met with retaliation that was “constant, and in all forms.”
His religious beliefs were mocked by guards and it wasn’t uncommon for them to withhold access to food and water, he testified. The more complaints he leveled against guards, the more the retaliation escalated, he said.
“It’s just a big game,” he said. “They run you around in circles and send you back to square one.”
Jacobs stated he had covered his cell door before in protest of alleged mistreatment. Sometimes he was issued a misconduct, but a cell extraction had never been carried out until the incident in 2010, he said.
Keys, who is also representing himself, testified that it was never his intention to force guards into performing cell extractions, as prosecutors allege. His goals were to draw attention to a fellow inmate who was strapped into a restraint chair for several hours straight, and to alert prison officials that threats had been made against him and other inmates, he said.
Imprisoned at SCI Dallas on a robbery charge for nearly three years, Keys claimed he was assaulted by guards, denied access to the prison law library and had his legal mail tampered with. Like Jacobs, Keys testified the guards’ actions were in retaliation to grievances he filed against them.
Keys, who is also charged with aggravated harassment by prisoner after investigators say he flung excrement at guards during his extraction, admitted to covering himself in feces when guards attempted to remove him from his cell.
“It was what it appeared to be,” Keys said of the substance.
Asked if it was true that he threw a mixture of feces and urine at guards during his cell extraction, Keys said those allegations were “not true.” Instead, he covered himself to deter guards from coming near him and carrying out threats of physical violence, he explained.
“After seeing they had the power to carry out their threats, I had no other choice other than what was available to me,” he said.
The third defendant to take the stand Tuesday, Peter echoed Keys’ comments that the point of the protest was to draw attention to their alleged mistreatment.
Peter, Jacobs, and Keys rested their defense just after 3 p.m. Tuesday, a week since opening arguments were heard.
Closing arguments are expected to be heard Wednesday morning before Judge Lesa S. Gelb.
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL