Two men who excaped from D.C. Jail last May have agreed to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors investigating allegations that jail guards accepted payoffs and provided inmates with "diamond-tipped" hacksaw blades used in the jailbreak, according to sources familiar with the probe.
The agreement that Ronald Givens, 35, and Rufus L. James, 33, would testify for the government -- a move prosecutors hope will provide a break in the months-long investigation -- was revealed in open court yesterday when the two pleaded quilty to a conspiracy charge stemming from an escape of four inmates.
Sol. Z. Rosen, Givens' attorney, told U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Richey that his client has promised to provide the government with "all the information he has regarding other participants, including jail and Department of Corrections personnel who may have been involved in this escape."
Givens, who authorities say masterminded the dramatic escape previously had told police that "there were several correction officers involved, "according to a memorandum prepared by prosecutors and filed in the public court file.
Joseph Bernard, James' attorney, told the court that he plans to give prosecutors a letter in which James "lays out the entire scheme."
Sources said investigators are looking into allegations that jail guards helped smuggle into the jail the hack saw blades used to cut the bars in the cell block window, from which the men escaped.
The guard assigned to the cell block at the time of the escape resigned several months ago and department of corrections officials have recommended that a second guard be dismissed because he failed to follow proper procedures the night of the escape.
Department of Corrections spolesman Leroy B. Anderson said yesterday the recommendation to fire the guard --- whose identity he would not reveal --- was based on evidence that he failed to check the bars on the cell window through which the inmates fled. He said the department did not have any evidence that the guard assisted the inmates in the escape.
Givens, James and two other prisoners, Larry J. Wallace, 24, and Samuel Byrd, 26, escaped from the jail around 10 p.m. May 8, James was caught within 45 minutes of the escape and Wallace and Byrd were apprehended nine days later. Givens remained at large until he was caught in August.
At the time of the escape, the inmates bent a steel plate away from the window on the third floor, cut out a piece of plexiglass and sawed through a bar.
The four then climbed through the window and shinnied down a makeshift rope of 17 bedsheets.
Authorities said the prisoners used two aluminum ladders to climb over an eight-foot wall to the street.
Givens, Byrd and Wallace got into a waiting car and were driven off, according to prosecutors. James, who did not get into the car, was caught a short time later near the jail.
Yesterday's guilty pleas abruptly ended the trial, which began Monday, of Givens, James and Wallace. Givens and James pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to plot the escape. In return the government agreed to dismiss three other related charges against both defendents.
Less than two weeks after Wallace and Byrd were captured, they escaped a second time on May 29 as U.S. marshals were transporting them to the jail after a court hearing. They both were captured within a half hour.
Yesterday, Wallace pleaded guilty to the May 29 escape and the government dropped all charges against him stemming from the May 8 jailbreak.
Escape charges still are pending against Byrd, whose case was severed from the others because he is on trial for murder in D.C. Superior Court.