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2 felony charges for corrections officer accused of abusing inmate

November 16, 2018

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office arrested and filed two felony charges against a Columbia Correctional Institution officer after he allegedly assaulted an inmate.

Russell Goldsmith, 63, Westfield, made his initial appearance Wednesday in Columbia County Circuit Court on felony charges of abusing a resident of a penal facility and felony misconduct of a public office for incidents that allegedly occurred Oct. 26.

CCI Corrections Officer Michael Thompson, 46, Endeavor, also faces felony misconduct of a public office for his alleged role in these incidents. Thompson has not yet made his initial appearance in court, according to online court records.

According to the criminal complaint, the inmate spit on Goldsmith through the trap door of his cell on Oct. 25. Goldsmith reportedly then told the inmate he was a “dead man” and that he would “take his head off” for the incident.

After the inmate spit on a different corrections officer Oct. 26, Goldsmith returned to the inmate’s cell with the same officer and the two of them placed sheets over the trap door of the inmate’s cell and two other cells, the complaint states further. Goldsmith told the inmate that it was “going to be a rough night for you” as the officers left the area. The inmate said he then pulled the sheet into his cell and began to tear it apart, planning to mess with the lock on his trap door to prevent it from being able to close.

Goldsmith, bearing a shield, and Thompson later entered the inmate’s cell on the premise that the inmate had attempted to harm himself and was unresponsive, according to the complaint. The inmate claims Goldsmith struck him with the shield upon his entry into the cell and that officers then started punching and kneeing him. The inmate claims Goldsmith was the main actor in the assault, gouging the inmate’s eye, twisting his fingers and punching him. He also claimed Goldsmith at one point restrained his head and began choking him, the inmate ultimately sustaining injuries to his eyes, rib cage, back, thumb and ring finger.

Once the officers placed the inmate in a restraint chair, Goldsmith allegedly told others that the inmate had tried to hang himself, the complaint states. Detectives reported they could hear the inmate softly advising that Goldsmith’s claim was a lie when they reviewed camera footage. The inmate claimed he could not speak loudly because his voice was affected during the incident.

Goldsmith and Thompson then wrote incident reports stating that, prior to their entry into the cell, the inmate had wrapped the sheet around his neck and was unresponsive, according to the complaint. The corrections officers in their incident reports also claimed that once they had entered the inmate’s cell, the inmate took a boxer’s stance.

Thompson later admitted to detectives that his reporting of the inmate wrapping a sheet around his neck, being unresponsive and taking a boxer’s stance was false, the complaint states. Thompson also admitted that Goldsmith punched the inmate multiple times and that Thompson himself had delivered a knee strike to the defendant.

Goldsmith told investigators it was his idea to place sheets over the trap boxes and that when he noticed the inmate’s sheet was gone, he grabbed his shield and told Thompson they needed to do a trap check, according to the complaint. At this point, Goldsmith said he observed the inmate slumped in the corner with the sheet around his neck. Goldsmith claimed the inmate engaged him once the corrections officers entered his cell, and that Goldsmith used the shield to bring the inmate to the floor. Goldsmith, however, admitted to striking the inmate when he shouldn’t have done so.

CCI had requested the sheriff’s office to investigate the use-of-force complaint Oct. 30.

Goldsmith’s pretrial conference is scheduled for Jan. 7. He faces up to three years in prison for felony abuse, while both he and Thompson face up to three years in prison for felony misconduct of a public office.

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