Three Months After Vaughn Hostage Situation, No Charges in CO Fl - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Three Months After Vaughn Hostage Situation, No Charges in CO Floyd's Death

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The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Del. (Photo: WBOC) The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, Del. (Photo: WBOC)

DOVER, Del. -- Three months after inmates seized control of a building at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna, no charges have been filed in the Feb. 1 inmate uprising or the death of correctional officer Lt. Steven Floyd.

Carl Kanefsky, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Justice, said no criminal charges have been filed yet in connection to the incident or Floyd's death, which is being investigated by Delaware State Police. A separate probe of the incident is being conducted by the Delaware Department of Correction.

Floyd, two other correctional officers, and a counselor were taken hostage by inmates, according to officials. Attorneys suing a number of former and current state officials have said three maintenance workers were also threatened by the inmates and hid in the building's basement before eventually escaping.

After an 18-hour standoff, law enforcement stormed the prison and Floyd was located and pronounced dead shortly thereafter, officials said.

Correctional Officers Association of Delaware President Geoff Klopp said many COs are disappointed in the fact that no charges have been announced, but they trust the state police investigation will result in the person or persons behind Floyd's death to justice.

"We know when the indictment comes forward, it will be able to bring justice to those who committed this heinous murder," he said.

Stephen Hampton, an attorney from Dover who is preparing a possible class-action lawsuit on behalf of inmates alleging mistreatment by law enforcement and prison staff following the hostage situation, said he is not surprised three months have passed without charges being announced.

Those claims of inmate mistreatment and apparent confusion over what happened in the prison riot would complicate forming a case against suspects in the inmate uprising, Hampton said.

"I expect for a lot of reasons, they're not going to have much inmate testimony so unless they have something else -- and we know they don't have cameras -- I think it's going to be hard to get a conviction, to be honest," he said.

Factors behind the hostage situation are also being examined through an independent review established by Gov. John Carney (D). The probe is being conducted by retired Family Court Judge William Chapman and former U.S. Attorney Charlie Oberly, the latter of whom replaced another retired judge who left the review over a potential conflict of interest.

The review is expected to result in an initial report by June 1, so actions can be taken by the General Assembly to help improve conditions in Delaware prisons before the legislative session ends at the end of the month.

"Governor Carney is committed to working with the General Assembly to take appropriate action on the report’s recommendations," said Jonathan Starkey, a Carney spokesman, in a emailed statement.

The Feb. 1 incident has stoked additional friction between correctional officers and the correction department. In the weeks following the hostage situation, COs testified in a state Senate hearing that they were faced with dangerous conditions every day.

Earlier this month, rank-and-file officers conducted a coordinated sick day, commonly called a "sick out" or "blue flu" to draw attention to issues like pay they believed state officials have been slow to act on, according to sources.

Starkey said Carney has taken immediate steps to address the hostage situation like authorizing the Office of Management and Budget to spend more than $300,000 on new equipment for Delaware correctional officers and calling for millions to be spent on more correctional officers at Vaughn and the Baylor Women's Correctional Institution and to give them more hazard pay, supplemental training and new equipment.

Prior to the hostage situation, Klopp said issues like understaffing and reliance on overtime had created an unsafe environment in prisons. He was skeptical of what kind of new information would be delivered through the independent review.

"I don't see how this review is going to reveal a whole lot of information that the people who make decisions in the Department of Correction and the correctional officers aren't already aware of and fully understand."

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