14 New Jersey Corrections Officers Charged for Abuse at Troubled Prison for Women

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TRENTON, NJ – Fourteen New Jersey state correctional officers at the troubled Edna Mahan Correctional Facility have been indicted for aggravated assault, tampering with public records, official misconduct, and conspiracy.

A grand jury returned the indictment against all 14 correction officers who were accused of being part of a January 2021 incident where female inmates were beaten and forcibly removed from their cells.

The prison has been a problem for the New Jersey Department of Corrections for decades. In April of 2022, it was reported that a transgender inmate had impregnated two female inmates in the prison.

A report by the Department of Justice published in 2020 cited the facility for rampant abuse and correctional officer misconduct for decades.

Over the years, there have been several arrests of correctional officers for abusing and assaulting female prisoners. Dozens of documented cases of abuse, neglect, and misconduct have been reported dating back to 1994.

The 14 officers indicted, according to state investigators, took part in the 2021 incident amid escalating tensions after several incidents of inmates squirting unknown liquids through their cell doors and striking officers.

“Cells belonging to inmates suspected of being involved in those “splashing” incidents were targeted, in an action the NJ Department of Corrections refers to as inmate extraction. According to DOC policy, extraction should be resorted to only after inmates refuse orders to put on handcuffs and leave their cells on their own, or if they pose a threat to themselves or others and refuse to exit a cell,” the state claims in the indictment. “One inmate was punched almost 30 times by one officer while being extracted by a five-person team, despite no apparent provocation or physical resistance from her, the investigation found. Other officers restrained the victim while the assault was happening, at times grabbing her hair or shoving her. She was taken to a hospital suffering from headaches, nausea, and vomiting, and doctors found she had a concussion.”

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According to a statement released today by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, another victim, after her extraction, despite the fact that she had complied with orders to be handcuffed, was covered with blood, and her right eye was swollen shut. She was transported to Hunterdon Medical Center, where doctors discovered her skull was broken around her eye. Boot marks were also discovered on her body.

“The indictment alleges these officers planned, supervised, participated in, or failed to stop one or more forced cell extractions on the Restorative Housing Unit tier with the purpose of punishing, intimidating or terrorizing one or more inmates,” the indictment alleges. “They are also accused of facilitating, failing to intervene in, and failing to report the assaults, as is their duty as law enforcement officers. Investigators allege that internal reports generated about the incidents were false or misleading in an attempt to conceal the brutality and what led up to it.”

The following defendants were indicted today by the grand jury:

  • Sean St. Paul, 56, of Newark
  • Ryan Valentin, 44, of Bloomfield
  • Eddie Molina, 44, of East Brunswick
  • Amir E. Bethea, 37, of Springfield
  • Andraia Bridges, 45, of North Plainfield
  • Anthony J. Valvano, 40, of Bound Brook
  • Brandon Burgos, 22, of Roseland
  • Luis A. Garcia, 25, of Nutley
  • Courey James, 33, of East Piscataway
  • Jose Irizarry, 38, of Paterson
  • Desiree Lewis, 33, of Elizabeth
  • Gustavo Sarmiento, 29, of Maywood
  • Marika Sprow, 33, of West Orange
  • Tara Wallace, 37, of Somerset