The Prince George's County Personnel Board heard conflicting testimony last night on whether a county jail guard, Michael Sofidiya, was wearing headphones connected to a portable radio while on duty last July when nine men escaped.
Sofidiya, who was patrolling outside the County Detention Center in Upper Marlboro at the time, was fined $464.64 by jail officials after a jail administrator reported that he had seen him wearing orange headphones at 12:40 a.m., at least an hour before the escape occurred.
Sofidiya appealed the fine to the personnel board, which is expected to make a decision in about a week.
Henry Dalley, a budget analyst for the jail, told the five-member board in Hyattsville that as he was leaving the jail on the morning of July 7 he saw "orange objects on both" of Sofidiya's ears "that appeared to be headphones."
Dalley's testimony was supported by a written report by jail Lt. Cindy Barry, who wrote that Sofidiya told her, in response to her questions, that he was wearing headphones on the morning of the escape.
In denying he was wearing headphones, Sofidiya testified he had misunderstood Barry's question, thinking that she had asked him whether he had a set of headphones at home.
Sofidiya was supported by his sister-in-law, Deborah Proctor, who testified that Sofidiya did not have his headphones on the morning of the escape because she was using them at the home they share in Forestville.
The jail administrators did not fine or reprimand another guard who had responsibility for the inmates who escaped. At last night's hearing county jail Director Arnett Gaston said that guard was not at fault because his view of the window through which the inmates escaped was obstructed by a column.
The nine prisoners, awaiting trial on charges ranging from armed robbery to drug and probation violations, sawed through a bar on a third-story jail window and climbed down a handmade rope to freedom. Seven have been recaptured, but two are still at large.