WILKES-BARRE — Closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the trial of three inmates accused of sparking a riot at an area prison in 2010.
Jurors began to weigh the fate of Carrington Keys, 35, Andre Jacobs, 33, and Duane Peter, 44, at approximately 12:20 p.m in Luzerne County Court. Each are facing a felony count of rioting after prosecutors say the men covered and tied their cell doors on April 29, 2010, requiring correctional officers to forcibly remove them from their cells in the restricted housing unit at State Correctional Institution at Dallas.
Keys faces an additional charge of aggravated harassment by prisoner after allegedly throwing feces and urine at guards during the extraction. Keys, who is representing himself in the case, has denied the charge.
Court records show Keys, Jacobs, and Peter are the last of the so-called Dallas 6 to have their day in court.
Anthony Kelly, 32, pleaded guilty to the rioting charge and received up to 14 months in prison.
Anthony Locke, 37, a fourth member of the group, was acquitted of a riot charge and convicted instead of a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
Yet another member Derrick Stanley, 45, entered a no contest plea to a count of resisting arrest and prosecutors withdrew the riot charge. Judge Lesa S. Gelb sentenced Stanley to 95 to 190 days in prison, but he was released after receiving credit for 196 days served.
The men claimed their behavior was a means of protest to draw attention to alleged mistreatment by guards. Prosecutors, however, say the incident was a “straightforward” violation of prison rules that was meant to trigger an official response.
“The rule is you can’t cover your cell door,” Assistant District Attorney James McMonagle said in his closing statements.
“They wanted to make a point,” he added.
Covering cell doors may be a violation of prison rules, but it was no riot, argued defense attorney Michael Wiseman.
“It is absolutely obvious what their intent was,” Wiseman told jurors. “Their intent was to draw attention to their plight.”
Wiseman, who is representing Peter, argued the case was “about men living in close proximity who were essentially powerless to stop what they perceive as abuses.” Moreover, it was “preposterous” that the men would want to coerce a group of guards into forcibly removing them from their cells, he argued.
Jacobs, who also is representing himself, told jurors in his closing arguments that the situation at SCI Dallas was “toxic,” and prompted him to file multiple grievances and complaints against guards. He argued he had covered his cell door at least five times in the past and had not received a cell extraction.
“Considering it didn’t happen in those prior instances, you can conclude that wasn’t their policy and in this incident, that was what they wanted to do,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs argued he may have violated prison rules, but he didn’t commit a crime.
“I took an action on that day for my own safety,” he said.
Keys echoed Jacobs’ arguments, claiming he felt his safety was in jeopardy.
“I had no intention on being their next victim,” he said. “Not without protest.”
Reach Joe Dolinsky at 570-991-6110 or on Twitter @JoeDolinskyTL