A Prince George's County jail inmate was sentenced to 10 years in prison yesterday for the assault and battery of a fellow inmate last November. Ronald P. Garnett, 24, still faces retrial next month on a charge of attempting to sexually assault the same inmate, James A. Anderson Jr. A circuit court jury was unable to reach a verdict on that charge last month.
According to Anderson and county prosecutors, Garnett and another inmate, Kirk Williams, 27, cornered Anderson in a cell last Nov. 27 and ordered him to perform sexual acts on them. When Anderson refused, the two men allegedly punched Anderson, and Garnett held him down while Williams sexually assaulted him with pencils. Later, prosecutors say, a third prisoner, Anthony Majette, 22, entered the cell and also participated.
Williams and Majette were also charged with attempted sexual assault. Majette has denied the charge, and there is a warrant out for the arrest of Williams, who is now out of jail.
The incident was described in a Washington Post article last December and was investigated by a special grand jury looking into sexual assaults in the county detention center. The jury has indicted 12 current and former inmates on criminal counts arising from alleged sexual assaults in the Upper Marlboro jail.
Garnett's attorney in the jail assault case, Richard H. Sothoron Jr., asked Circuit Judge Audrey E. Melbourne to give his client one year in jail, the same sentence given by Circuit Judge Jacob S. Levin to three other former inmates who pleaded guilty last month to assaults on other prisoners.
Sothoron also reminded Melbourne that the victim of the jail assault was a convicted murderer who received a 30-year sentence for stabbing a 17-year-old retarded boy to death.
Prosecutor Simpson, however, called the victim's criminal history "totally irrelevent." He asked Melbourne to impose a sentence that will "send out some sort of message to other individuals, that this type of activity cannot go on inside the jail."
Melbourne told Garnett that "it makes no difference what the victim was doing." Melbourne said she would impose a 10-year sentence because she classified the offense as a "bad act" done while in jail, similar to escape, which carries 10 years.
Melbourne also sentenced Garnett to five years in prison, suspending all but 304 days he has already served, for carrying a dangerous weapon and assault and battery in the incident that put him in jail. According to defense attorney Victor Houlon, Garnett had originally been charged with attempted murder after shooting a man last July in a dispute over borrowed money.