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Inmates: Fla. Guards Killed Man

January 11, 2002

STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ A death row inmate was beaten to death by guards because he intended to alert the media that prisoners were being mistreated, inmates testified Thursday.

During a pretrial hearing for four former guards charged in the case, the inmates said they were repeatedly beaten by guards after their arrival in July 1999 at the Florida State Prison’s wing for violent inmates.

The five inmates testified that Frank Valdes, 36, planned to tell the media about the mistreatment and that was why he was killed later that month.

``Frank Valdes, he was concerned about us getting beat up,″ said Charles Jerry Jr., who is serving a life sentence for armed robbery. ``He was trying to inform the media about these situations.″

The former guards _ Timothy Thornton, 36, Charles Brown, 28, Jason Griffis, 28, and Andrew Lewis, 31 _ all face charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. Another former guard was acquitted two years ago and four more face trial later this year.

Autopsies showed Valdes had dozens of broken bones, internal injuries and a deep bruise on his side in the shape of a boot. The guards maintain Valdes died after throwing himself off a bunk.

Defense attorneys said the guards couldn’t have known what Valdes was planning and disputed the inmates’ accounts.

``What they are saying is not true,″ defense lawyer Gloria Fletcher said. ``One, it didn’t happen ... and second, there is no way our clients could have known Valdes was writing the press.″

Circuit Judge Larry Turner said he will rule Friday whether to admit the inmates’ testimony in the trial scheduled to begin Monday.

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