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Corrections officer guilty of using excessive force

SUPERIOR Court Associate Judge Kenneth Govendo on Tuesday morning found Corrections Officer Ray Anthony Camacho guilty of assault and battery.

After a week-long bench trial, the judge said Camacho is criminally liable for using excessive force on Ryan Cavalear, an inmate who was asking for his pain medication on April 1, 2016.

Video footage showed Camacho and co-defendant Admisen Haddy, also a Corrections officer, transferring Cavalear to a padded cell while holding the inmate’s cuffed hands behind his back.

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Haddy then pulled up on one arm while Camacho pulled down on the other arm of Cavalear.

The video also showed Camacho apparently slapping Cavalear in the face twice.

Judge Govendo said the Department of Corrections needs help — “a lot of help.”

The department’s personnel, he added, need more training.

The Office of the Attorney General “needs to push for training, training, and more training — it is obvious in this case that much more training is necessary.”

He said the video footage presented at the trial should be included in the training.

“The video shows how not to use force — and let every officer and inmate know that everything that goes on at [Corrections] is being recorded.”

The judge said the “escorting hold” performed on Cavalear by the two Corrections officer did not rise to the level of being unlawful. However, he added, grabbing Cavalear by the neck and putting him on the floor does rise to the level of being unlawful.

The judge told Camacho: “I wish that I did not have to find you guilty. But like you, I took an oath to follow the law, and I find you guilty of assault and battery.”

At the same time, the judge said he did not intend to impose a jail sentence on Camacho. “I’m not going to send a [Corrections] guard back to the prison where he has to work with prisoners — it’s too dangerous.”

He added, “Officer Haddy [the co-defendant who entered a guilty plea] is still working [at Corrections]. I would like to see Officer Camacho keep his job. I don’t know if that is possible and whether that sends the wrong message, but it could be something that [the prosecutor and the defense] counsel could talk about.”

Judge Govendo set Camacho’s sentencing for June 6, 2017 at 1:30 p.m.

The government prosecutor, Matthew Baisley, said justice was done in this case.

“Prisoner abuse is unacceptable,” the assistant AG said, adding that he was happy with the guilty verdict.

When asked about Judge Govendo’s recommendation of no jail-time, Baisley said, “There’s a process for that — we will evaluate the presentence report and we will talk to the defense counsel. We’re focused on the liability phase here, and we will focus on the sentencing later and consider those kinds of things.”

He noted that the defendant has no prior convictions, and “the fact that this is a misdemeanor assault and battery will certainly weigh in the defendant’s favor, but he was entrusted to care for the people that are housed at [Corrections], and that will also weigh in a different way.”

The maximum punishment for misdemeanor assault and battery is one year of imprisonment.

As for Judge Govendo’s comment that prison guards need more training, Baisley said: “I’m sure the AG will support more training for all law enforcement officers.”

Collin Thompson served as Camacho’s defense counsel.

Variety learned that Cavalear filed a lawsuit against Corrections over the assault incident, and has agreed to a $25,000 settlement.

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/94595-corrections-officer-guilty-of-using-excessive-force

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