Five Cumberland County corrections officers indicted for allegedly assaulting jail inmate

BRIDGETON — Five Cumberland County corrections officers were indicted this week for aggravated assault, official misconduct and related offenses for allegedly assaulting an inmate at the county jail last year.

John Fazzolari, Drew Ford, Joshua Minguela, Kevin Still and Kevin Pratts were indicted Wednesday for second-degree aggravated assault, three counts of second-degree official misconduct, fourth-degree falsifying records, fourth-degree obstructing administration of law or other governmental function and second-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated assault and related offenses.

The indictment refers to an alleged assault on Michael Ewing, an inmate at Cumberland County Jail, on June 30, 2008.

Ewing was arrested in Vineland for “improper behavior” and resisting arrest.

An indictment lodged against Ewing says the 46-year-old man, who has lived in both Stowe, Pa., and Milford, Conn., resisted the arrest by shoving one Vineland police officer, spitting in the face of another and kicking a police dog in the face.

A few days later, a complaint was lodged against Ewing charging him with simple assault against a law enforcement officer, harming a K-9 officer, throwing bodily fluid and resisting arrest.

Prosecutors are alleging the assault took place after Ewing was transported to Cumberland County Jail and lodged there in lieu of bail.

Martha Rojas, Cumberland County public information officer, said Thursday that the indictment resulted from an investigation by the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office.

“There were allegations of misconduct stemming from an incident that involved the processing of a new inmate,” she said.

Aside from a press release issued Thursday, county officials declined to speak about the situation.

Assistant County Warden Bob Balicki would not comment Thursday on the indictment and other county officials did not return phone calls for comment.

Prosecutor Ron Casella too was not available for comment.

Fazzolari, Ford, Minguela, Still and Pratts were indicted for assaulting Ewing “by causing serious injury or causing such injury purposely or knowingly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life,” according to the charging document.

The official misconduct refers to three separate allegations:

* First, that the officers knowingly assaulted, participated, aided or abetted the assault or mistreatment on Ewing.

* Second, that they created reports on the incident containing false or misleading information.

* Third, that they failed to take action to stop the assault or mistreatment of Ewing.

The assault, along with the official misconduct charges, are crimes of the second degree, meaning the five men could face 5 to 10 years in prison if convicted on any of the counts.

Three out of five of the officers remain employed at Cumberland County Jail.

Pratts, hired by the county in July 2006, resigned to accept another job. Minguela, hired in May 2007, is at training academy.

Ford is out on sick leave, while Still and Fazzolari have been assigned to “non-inmate contact areas,” according to Balicki, speaking through Rojas.

Ford is the veteran member of the group, having been hired in September 2003.
Still was hired in March 2008 and Fazzolari was hired in March 2007


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