Pubdate: Wed, 11 Oct 2000
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Author: Associated Press


A legislative inquiry into sex between guards and inmates in South
Carolina's prisons took a new turn yesterday when a former prisons
investigator said he was told to back off several cases of drugs behind

That led the chairman of the Senate's prisons oversight committee to suggest
that corruption pervades the highest levels of the Corrections Department.

"What we're finding is a virtual conspiracy not to investigate cases," said
Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, who has led the legislative inquiry as head
of the Corrections and Penology Committee.

The revelations about wrongdoing behind bars began when Susan Smith, serving
life in prison for drowning her young sons, told investigators in August
that she had sex with a guard.

In the past 20 months, investigators have verified 11 cases of employee
sexual misconduct. Four male employees and one female guard have been
charged with having improper relations with prisoners.

Former investigator Joseph Baker told the committee that Alan Waters, the
internal-affairs director for prisons, asked investigators not to pursue
certain cases.

Waters "specifically told me to back off," Baker said. "He said the order
came from his superiors."

Waters reports to Corrections Director William "Doug" Catoe, who said he
never ordered any investigations dropped. Catoe said that Baker's
allegations were the first time he had heard that.

"I have never curtailed an investigation and could never perceive a
situation where I would," Catoe said.

Waters did not return phone messages and would not answer questions, prisons
spokesman John Barkley said.

The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating, and Attorney General
Charlie Condon is trying to get the cases moved in front of the state grand

Condon said yesterday that the state investigation already has uncovered
more than 80 incidents of criminal wrongdoing within the prisons.

In a letter to SLED Chief Robert Stewart that was released by Condon's
office, the attorney general asked Stewart to explain why the chief was
resisting a move of the case to the state grand jury. Condon also asked for
the results of SLED's preliminary investigation.

Baker said that Waters ordered him to stop investigating in three cases, but
he would not discuss details, citing the SLED investigation.

Waters has worked for the department for 26 years, 14 of those as head of
internal affairs. He denies having impeded an investigation, Barkley said.

Baker said he was hired in 1998, under former Corrections Director Michael
Moore. After Catoe was promoted to director last year, Baker said he tried
to contact him about Waters' orders, but "I was denied access."

Thomas said he wanted to determine if other internal-affairs investigators
could confirm Baker's allegations. "There is no evidence that Mr. Catoe had
evidence of this," Thomas said.

Thomas said he would ask SLED to focus on whether there was any obstruction
of justice.

Hodges has hired former FBI agent Tommy Davis to review the department after
SLED completes its investigation.
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