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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Federal Suit Alleges Contraband Ring at NorCo Jail

In January, 2011, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli was investigating a black market at Northampton County jail, in which guards and inmates would smuggle in anything and everything for the right price. Unfortunately, that investigation was ruined when the Morning Call, on January 27, 2011, published a story based on a sealed search warrant, which tipped off the suspected corrections officers and inmates. This was bad news for Matthew Farrell. Just a few months later, according to a Complaint filed in federal court last week, those same corrections officers and inmates seriously injured him after he threatened their operation.

Matthew Farrell, a minor drug offender, claims he was ostracized by guards like Ryan Kelly because he refused to participate in their contraband operations. On Easter Sunday 2011, when Kelly was supposed to be protecting Farrell, he instead was seen having a conversation with another inmate, convicted murderer Paul Serrano. Soon after that, Kelly triggered Farrell's cell door to open and then disappeared. Serrano lunged at Farrell with a filed off brush handle, stabbing away until two other inmates pulled him away. No guards could be located until about 5-10 minutes after what certainly appears to have been an attempted murder.

In addition to this assault, Farrell was regularly taunted and intimidated by Ryan. He and another guard, Daniel Piccone, told Farrell they could "make him disappear." Farrell has since been transferred to Bucks County's jail for his own protection, apparently at the request of a federal judge.

Ryan and Piccone are both currently employed at the jail.

This chilling federal complaint, filed by Attorneys Colin Monahan and Joe Welsh, is the latest in several recent prison abuse actions filed against the County. In September, the County paid $200,000 to settle a slashing case brought by an inmate who claims he was assaulted by this very same black market ring. Just last week, the County was sued over a slashing incident involving razors that the jail was providing to inmates. And two weeks ago, a federal complaint was filed over yet another MRSA infection.

Northampton County Executive John Stoffa likes to remind everyone that "[t]hese are not Sunday school students in the prison."

But Ron Angle, when he was a member of Council, questioned whether Stoffa was discussing the inmates or the people running the jail.

In the wake of a glowing report from state inspectors noting no deficiencies at the jail, Stoffa recently named insider Arnie Matos as his Director of Corrections. He started his career as a corrections officer.

I have not spoken to prison officials or County administrators about this lawsuit, assuming that they are unable to discuss it. I would caution readers that this federal complaint's allegations of a contraband ring are as of now unproven.


Anonymous said...

Sounds as though someone REALLY NEEDS to look at the "leadership" at the prison. The "good ole boys club" has been running the show for years. Hell, they may even be getting kick backs.

Fact is the guy "in charge" now shared an office with the "tax evading chaplain" who, according to my sources still has his position in that dump.

Seems as though your "reporting" had no effect on those that run that shit hole.

Anonymous said...

Another Stoffa success story. The "leadership" of the county has been in the shithole for the past seven years.

Anonymous said...

Ship of fools. teh place is over run wiht Hall Walkers and patronage.

Time to clean house.

Mark Baker said...

stoffa just keeps building his legacy

Anonymous said...

The place has been run like a zoo for years and years.

Sad, but not new.

Anonymous said...

Nice job Bernie. A failure on so many levels but hey..it's the jail, so who gives a crap..right? Let them have bread and water and they deserve whatever happens to them inside those post Civil War walls. Screw 'em.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of good people trying like hell to overcome the stench that is the Northampton County jail. They are a minority and God bless them for doing what they can under terrible conditions and circumstances. For the most part..the public doesn't give a shit. Truly sad..

Anonymous said...

The Prison Advisory Board is a paper tiger and it is rubber stamping whatever the jail admin. feeds them. It would be better for the DA and county council to ride herd on these people in charge. Most counties use that format and appointed citizens are not the supposed overseer's of the jail. Time to change the way business is conducted in secret and away from public view.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Prison advisory board, paper tiger or not, meets in public. I do think they tend to circle the wagons for prison administrators.

Anonymous said...

The Prison Advisory Board is worthless.
WORTHLESS, meeting in public or not.
Useless, a cruel joke.

Anonymous said...

The board is led around the jail by their noses. It is a farce. Their monthly visits to the cell blocks are scripted and never unannounced. Some up grading done in the kitchen and they deserve some credit there and the food quality is a concern to them. Other than those things..they have no power and they seem not to care what goes on behind the curtains. They don't know what the word advocacy means. It's a feel good gig and then the admin. feeds them a meal that the inmates will never see or taste.

Anonymous said...

I noticed all the mentions of corruption at the prison. When this case truly gets looked into i hope all the facts come out. They mention how he is a minor drug offender but do they mention the attack on an officer inside the jail? Many things go on inside that horrible place. NCP is nothing but a country club that caters to the needs of the inmates, and when something gets twisted and turned around like this it makes all the guards look terrible. I agree the county from the top(Stoffa) all the way down to the bottom (prison guards) are allowed to get away with way too much.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It does not mention an attack on an officer, nor do I see that listed in his criminal history. But you are right to suggest there is another side to this story. Unfortunately, if I asked the guards to tell me, they could not speak to me. On the other hand, I think the public needs to know these allegations are out there.

Anonymous said...

Shame on those in power..including the union..who look the other way and tolerate this crap and then the poor tax payers pick up the bill to keep the law suits away from the door it belongs at. Let the truth finally come out. A purge is called for but nobody has the guts to do the job! Council needs to step up and represent the interests of the voters who elected them.

Anonymous said...

How is it after years and years of problems and scandals, the "same" people are in management positions in the prison? Maybe the next Executive can score votes if they appoint an all new Prison Board and sack the entire management team.

When is enough, enough?

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