Pr. George's Jail Guard Meets With Investigators

By Aaron C. Davis, Ruben Castaneda and Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Inside the Prince George's County jail, corrections officer Russell Hardesty was stationed in a control booth with a view of two cellblocks, including the 48 cells that make up Housing Unit 5. Fellow guards Anthony C. McIntosh and Ramon Davis were assigned to patrol the ground level and a second tier of cells in the unit itself.

Of the almost 130 guards who were working at the jail the morning of June 29, when Ronnie L. White, 19, was found strangled in his cell, those three might have been in the best position to have seen what happened and are of particular interest to state and federal investigators, a law enforcement source said.

"There's a good chance they should have seen if someone went in or out -- not necessarily what happened in the cell," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation into the death of White, who was charged in the slaying of a county police officer, is ongoing.

Hardesty, who on the advice of his attorney initially declined to speak to investigators, did so yesterday for more than two hours, according to the attorney, Darrell Robinson.

Robinson, who confirmed that Hardesty was in the control booth that morning, declined to say whether his client saw anything unusual. The attorney said the booth, which has windows toward the front, is "enclosed, so he can't hear, and certainly his vision would be obstructed."

The other two guards on duty in Unit 5 were identified by the law enforcement source and a jail employee who is not authorized to speak publicly. It was not clear yesterday whether McIntosh or Davis had spoken to investigators.

McIntosh, 44, said in a brief interview that he had "nothing to do" with the incident. He then referred questions to his attorney, whose full name he would not provide, and his union president, who has not responded to phone calls in recent days. Davis, 25, did not respond to a message left with a woman who identified herself as his mother.

The slaying of White, who was accused of running down Cpl. Richard S. Findley in a stolen truck June 27, has drawn condemnation from county officials and civil rights groups. Suspicion fell on corrections officers a day after White's death, when County Executive Jack B. Johnson said only guards had access to the cell where White was held in solitary confinement. Maryland State Police and the FBI took over the investigation at the county's request after White's death was ruled a homicide.

According to the sources, White was being held on the first floor in cell 102, the second cell from the control booth where Hardesty would have been in charge of monitoring anyone entering and exiting H5, as the housing unit is known. The cell has a solid door with a small window.

Among other duties, Davis and McIntosh were responsible for monitoring inmates and dealing with their meal deliveries. One of them would typically have spent part of the shift at a first-floor desk not far from the cell where White was held, the jail employee said.

Davis has worked at the jail for three years, McIntosh has worked there for five and Hardesty has worked there more than 12 years.

Mary Lou McDonough, the county's interim director of corrections, said the "normal practice" would have been to have four officers working in the area: two in the secure control booth and two in the unit itself.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company