- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2005

BALTIMORE — Raymond Smoot was trying to talk a jail guard into letting him make up missed exercise time in the moments before a fatal altercation with officers, an attorney representing his family says.

Attorney A. Dwight Pettit has interviewed witnesses to the May 14 incident at the state-run Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center as part of a wrongful death lawsuit he plans to file against the state.

Mr. Pettit said inmates told him a correctional officer who participated in the beating pounded his chest and yelled, ?Anybody else want some of this??

An internal investigation by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is in its third week as six correctional officers remain on paid administrative leave. The department has declined to comment in detail about the investigation, in which it has conducted more than 100 interviews.

Smoot, 51, had missed a scheduled walk and was trying to get permission to go with another group, Mr. Pettit said. When a guard told him to go back into his cell, the cell door jammed. When it opened, an officer started to push him and Smoot put his hands up in a defensive manner, Mr. Pettit said.

?I’m told there was absolutely no blow being thrown by him,? Mr. Pettit said.

Smoot and the officer fell down, triggering an alert that brought correctional officers pouring into the area and officers started beating him, he said.

?It was almost like they were taking turns,? Mr. Pettit said. ?One would go out and the other would come running up and kick him in the head.?

One of about six witnesses Mr. Pettit has spoken to was about 15 feet away. Mr. Pettit said one witness told him the beating was so intense that one of Smoot’s eyes was knocked out of its socket.

?He was just totally rendered unconscious, then they left him there, and that’s where you get different versions of time where he was left — anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour,? Mr. Pettit said.

The FBI has opened a civil rights investigation.

Ed Rothstein, board member with the Maryland Association of Correctional and Security Employees, said he is sifting through accounts of the incident. His organization is representing two of the six correctional officers on leave.

?I’m not really sure on those kinds of details at this point,? Mr. Rothstein said. ?We’re waiting to really craft the case at this point.?

Smoot was being held on a theft charge. Corrections officials have said he had a history of disciplinary problems at the facility.

Central Booking is where arrested adults in Baltimore are identified, fingerprinted and photographed before they have a hearing before a court commissioner. The facility, which opened in 1995, was designed to process up to 45,000 people annually, but handled 100,000 last year.

For months, inmates have failed to get court hearings within 24 hours of their arrest, as required by law. That prompted a judge to issue a court order in April to release them if they don’t get a hearing in the required time.

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