In­mate al­legedly beaten by jail guards sen­tenced on drug charge

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NORRISTOWN >> Just days be­fore he is ex­pected to tes­tify against the Mont­gomery County cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers who al­legedly beat him while he was in cus­tody await­ing trial, a Philadel­phia man learned his fate on a drug con­spir­acy charge.

Der­rick “Ir­ish” Houli­han, 44, of East Stafford Street, was sen­tenced in county court to 2-to-6-years in a state cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity after he pleaded guilty to a charge of con­spir­acy to en­gage in pos­ses­sion with in­tent to de­liver heroin in con­nec­tion with in­ci­dents that oc­curred in Chel­tenham in De­cem­ber 2016.

Houli­han’s lawyer, Lawrence Bozzelli, had sought a lesser sen­tence, ar­gu­ing mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors ex­isted, in­clud­ing that Houli­han al­legedly was as­saulted by guards at the county jail in Lower Prov­i­dence on Valen­tine’s Day 2017 while he was in cus­tody and suf­fered bro­ken ribs and fa­cial lac­er­a­tions.

“He has ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for his ac­tions. He re­grets it,” Bozzelli ar­gued. “While he was in cus­tody, he was as­saulted by cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers.”

But Judge Steven T. O’Neill, cit­ing the dan­ger­ous na­ture of heroin, re­jected the de­fense re­quest for a mit­i­gated sen­tence and im­posed a term in the stan­dard range of sen­tenc­ing guide­lines. The judge did not take into ac­count Houli­han’s al­leged “vic­tim sta­tus.”

“Heroin is a se­ri­ous drug that is killing peo­ple in record num­bers. There is a long his­tory of this de­fen­dant to re­main crime free while he is in the com­mu­nity,” said O’Neill, point­ing to Houli­han’s pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions for other crimes, in­clud­ing as­sault.

Houli­han was on pa­role at the time of his ar­rest in the Chel­tenham drug case. Tes­ti­mony re­vealed Houli­han faces a hear­ing be­fore the state pa­role board and likely an ad­di­tional 24 months of prison time for vi­o­lat­ing that pa­role.

When Houli­han pleaded guilty to the drug con­spir­acy charge in Septem­ber 2017, pros­e­cu­tors agreed to cap the min­i­mum sen­tence at two years.

At the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing, while As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Dou­glas Laven­berg rec­og­nized that Houli­han al­legedly was as­saulted by cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers, he asked the judge to con­sider the dan­ger­ous na­ture of heroin and Houli­han’s role in a con­spir­acy with oth­ers to dis­trib­ute the drug. Houli­han could have faced up to 15 years in prison on the dru­gre­lated charge.

“This was a drug dealer who was do­ing this out of greed, be­cause it was his job,” Laven­berg ar­gued.

Houli­han did not com­ment about the sen­tence as he was es­corted from the court­room by sher­iff’s deputies. Houli­han also de­clined to com­ment about the up­com­ing trial of the five county jail­house guards who are ac­cused of as­sault­ing him. Houli­han is ex­pected to tes­tify for pros­e­cu­tors when that trial be­gins on Jan. 22 be­fore Judge Wil­liam R. Car­pen­ter.

The five for­mer cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers headed to trial in­clude: Dar­rin Collins, 53, a for­mer lieu­tenant at the jail, of Phoenixville, Ch­ester County; Al­fred Gre­gory Jr., 34, of East Coven­try, Ch­ester County; Ed­win Ne­gron, 54, a for­mer cap­tain at the jail, of Ex­ton, Ch­ester County; An­thony Saxby, 32, of Up­per Gwynedd; and Ran­dall Sims, 41, of Norristown.

Each of the five men faces charges of ag­gra­vated and sim­ple as­sault, con­spir­acy to com­mit ag­gra­vated as­sault, reck­lessly en­dan­ger­ing an­other per­son, hin­der­ing ap­pre­hen­sion or pros­e­cu­tion, of­fi­cial op­pres­sion, and ob­struct­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion of law in con­nec­tion with the Feb. 14, 2017, as­saults of Houli­han and an­other in­mate and the al­leged coverup that fol­lowed.

At the time of the ar­rests, au­thor­i­ties said the dis­cov­ery of “dis­turb­ing” video sur­veil­lance footage of the beat­ing of Houli­han helped crack the case when of­fi­cers al­legedly tried to cover-up their con­duct.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan when an as­sis­tant war­den was in­formed ver­bally by cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers that they used phys­i­cal force on an in­mate. That re­quired the sub­mis­sion of in­ci­dent re­ports as well as ob­tain­ing jail­house video sur­veil­lance footage that was avail­able, pros­e­cu­tors said.

When an ini­tial in­ter­nal re­view found that some of­fi­cers may have used ex­ces­sive force on two pris­on­ers, may have lied about their in­volve­ment and took steps to min­i­mize or de­stroy avail­able sur­veil­lance footage, county de­tec­tives were no­ti­fied and a grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ini­ti­ated.

The grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that on Feb. 14 some of the cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers were in­volved with as­sault­ing in­mates Houli­han, who wears a pros­thetic left leg, and 18-yearold Matthew Ruff­ings, of Norristown, in two high se­cu­rity ar­eas of the jail.

Pros­e­cu­tors al­leged Houli­han was ini­tially as­saulted in his cell, taken for med­i­cal treat­ment, and then as­saulted again in a day room area or com­mu­nity area of the K-6 sec­tion of the prison. Video sur­veil­lance showed Houli­han did not fight back.

Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, Houli­han was not wear­ing his pros­thetic leg at the time of the al­leged sec­ond beat­ing.

Court pa­pers in­di­cate Houli­han suf­fered a lac­er­a­tion over his eye dur­ing the first as­sault. Houli­han suf­fered two bro­ken ribs as well as cuts and abra­sions to his arms and his leg dur­ing the sec­ond al­leged as­sault.

Ne­gron ini­tially claimed to jail of­fi­cials that Houli­han had been giv­ing staff “prob­lems” and had “acted up” and that force had to be used to re­turn him to his cell. Nei­ther Ne­gron nor Collins fully dis­closed the ex­tent of force, ac­cord­ing to the grand jury pre­sent­ment.

Court pa­pers in­di­cate cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers may not have been aware that a new cam­era had been in­stalled in the K-6 sec­tion and that it had been ac­tively record­ing at the time of the as­sault of Houli­han. When jail­house of­fi­cials re­viewed the video footage they con­cluded that what they viewed did not match what cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers doc­u­mented in their in­ci­dent re­ports, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

In the video footage of the sec­ond al­leged as­sault Houli­han is seen “hop­ping on his one nat­u­ral leg as he en­tered K-6 un­der es­cort by Saxby and Sims, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers. Houli­han went to the floor face-down and there was no ev­i­dence on the video he was as­saultive or oth­er­wise com­bat­ive at that point, the grand jury pre­sent­ment re­vealed.

Later, Saxby, Sims and Gre­gory are ob­served punch­ing and kick­ing Houli­han as he flailed on the floor in an ap­par­ent at­tempt to pro­tect him­self, au­thor­i­ties al­leged. Sev­eral of the ac­cused al­legedly then “com­bined ef­forts to un­leash a se­ries of kicks, punches, and stomps onto var­i­ous parts of Houli­han’s body, in­clud­ing his torso and chest,” ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

Gre­gory al­legedly also taunted Houli­han as he was on the ground in a help­less po­si­tion. Gre­gory is ob­served kick­ing Houli­han’s pros­thetic leg into a day room and Houli­han was “in­ex­pli­ca­bly de­nied the use of his pros­thetic leg for ap­prox­i­mately 12 hours,” ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment.


Der­rick “Ir­ish” Houli­han, 44, of Philadel­phia, was sen­tenced to 2-to-6-years in in prison after he pleaded guilty to a charge of con­spir­acy to en­gage in pos­ses­sion with in­tent to de­liver heroin in con­nec­tion with in­ci­dents that oc­curred in Chel­tenham in De­cem­ber 2016.

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