TRENTON – Fourteen correctional police officers have been indicted in connection with the early 2021 incident at New Jersey’s women’s prison in which two inmates were severely injured in beatings while being forcibly removed from their cells.

The 14 officers, including the then-leader at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township in Hunterdon County, all of whom have been suspended, were indicted Tuesday.

Criminal charges: 'Terrorizing inmates'

The indictment alleges the officers planned, supervised, participated in or failed to stop “one or more forced cell extractions on the Restorative Housing Unit tier with the purpose of punishing, intimidating or terrorizing one or more inmates.”

The charges include conspiracy, official misconduct and aggravated assault, which each carry potential sentences of five to 10 years in prison and fines of $150,000. The assault charge includes a mandate to serve 85% of the sentence before parole eligibility.

They were also charged with tampering with public records, which is punishable by three to five years in state prison with two years parole ineligibility and a fine of $15,000. That charge relates to misleading or false internal reports intended to conceal what took place.

Prosecutors said the following defendants were indicted

Sean St. Paul, 56, of Newark, who was the prison’s associate administrator

(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Ryan Valentin, 44, of Bloomfield, a major in the Department of Corrections

(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Eddie Molina, 44, of East Brunswick, a lieutenant

(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Amir E. Bethea, 37, of Springfield, a sergeant

Amir Bethea
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Andraia Bridges, 45, of North Plainfield, a sergeant

Andraia Bridges
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Anthony J. Valvano, 40, of Bound Brook, a sergeant

Anthony Valvano
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Brandon Burgos, 22, of Roseland, a, a senior correctional officer

Brandon Burgos
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Luis A. Garcia, 25, of Nutley, a correctional officer

Luis Garcia
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Courey James, 33, of East Piscataway, a senior correctional officer

Courey James
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Jose Irizarry, 38, of Paterson

Jose Irizarry
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Desiree Lewis, 33, of Elizabeth, a senior officer

Desiree Lewis
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Gustavo Sarmiento, 29, of Maywood, a senior correctional officer

Gustavo Sarmiento
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Marika Sprow, 33, of West Orange, a senior officer

Marika Sprow
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Tara Wallace, 37, of Somerset, a senior correctional officer

Tara Wallace
(NJ Office of the Attorney General and AP Photo/Seth Wenig, file)
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Sexual and physical abuse at prison

Edna Mahan has had a history of issues, including a report by the Justice Department on its civil rights and sexual and physical abuse problems, and is now due to be closed. The state has not yet determined where it might build a replacement or otherwise house the inmates.

Tensions at Edna Mahan were running high on Jan. 11, 2021, after several incidents in which inmates squirted unknown liquids on officers through their cell doors. Cells belonging to inmates suspected in those “splashing” incidents were targeted in the late-night inmate extraction.

Such extractions are supposed to be a final resort if inmates refuse to be handcuffed and leave their cells or if they pose a threat. Prosecutors say the officers had their minds made up and forcibly removed inmates who were complying or weren’t given a chance to comply.

Investigators say one inmate who wasn’t resisting was punched almost 30 times by one officer, while others restrained her. Another who had complied to be handcuffed suffered a broken skull around her eye.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com

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