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Indicted Calif. Guard Was Promoted

February 28, 1998

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ An officer under federal indictment for his alleged role in an inmate’s shooting death at Corcoran State Prison was later promoted and transferred to the office that investigates brutality cases.

Lt. John Vaughn serves in the Internal Affairs office, which was created a year ago specifically in response to alleged wrongdoing at Corcoran. The office bypasses the Corrections Department’s bureaucracy and reports directly to the director of the state prison system.

Vaughn, 42, has not been assigned to any investigations linked to the indictment.

The office was set up ``pretty much as a direct result of the concern over the allegations at Corcoran,″ department spokesman Tipton Kindel said. ``The feeling that perhaps our investigators were not independent enough.″

When asked whether an officer potentially linked to problems at Corcoran should have been assigned to Internal Affairs, Kindel said there was no reason not to consider him.

``He was not implicated in anything,″ Kindel said. The Internal Affairs personnel ``had all been screened in terms of their work record and background.″

Vaughn, then a sergeant, was on duty when rapist Preston Tate was shot to death by a guard during an exercise yard brawl.

A federal grand jury on Thursday accused Vaughn and seven other correctional officers of staging gladiator-style brawls between rival inmates in February and April of 1994. According to the indictment, Tate was shot when the April fight got out of control.

An attorney who filed a civil suit against the department in connection with Tate’s death questioned the department’s wisdom in assigning Vaughn to Internal Affairs.

``It’s absolutely absurd,″ said attorney Catherine Campbell. ``Internal Affairs is predictably pro-officer and insular, and participates in covering up wrongdoing in the department.″

Vaughn’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

The guards arraignment is scheduled March 18.

Corcoran officials said the charges against the guards were not justified.

``The rationale is totally bogus. We don’t know how they could possibly have come up with this,″ said Daisy Smith, a counselor at the prison.

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