Monday, April 7, 2003

In their own words: Inmates plan murders

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

During the 1993 Lucasville prison riots, 10 people were murdered, including corrections officer Robert Vallandingham.

Riot leaders James Were, Stanley Cummings, George Skatzes, Jason Robb, Anthony Lavelle, Cecil Allen and Johnny Roper met between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. April 15 - four days after the uprising started - where they discussed negotiations, finally deciding to kill an officer, according to prosecutors.

Their conversation was captured on a tape planted in the tunnels below the prison. The recording devices were hooked up with the hope prisoners' conversations would lead investigators to where hostages were being held. The tapes were eventually used in many of the prosecutions.

Here, in their own chilling words, is part of their conversation that morning, including details that led the inmates to kill Vallandingham, according to prosecutors.

JAMES WERE: Now if we come together, come together, and be real strong brothers sustained ... we can achieve something. Part of the thing is bodies... In so many days... look what have we achieved... Everybody in the world is looking at this.

Discussions about negotiations...

STANLEY CUMMINGS: When I said that I would ask for a show of hands, I want to hear a voice. When we leave up out of here this morning, let's have this established...

More talk of negotiations...

CUMMINGS: We ain't asking for nothing today but for the water, lights and power, and the people down there (authorities in the tunnels) get out from in there. This is what negotiations is now. You can do this as good faith for all your officers in here ...

First of all we want what we had when we started plain and simple...

If you don't comply with this here ... then we will, ahh, we will resort to drastic measures.

This is what's gonna happen, because you are bull (expletive) with us. Excuse my expression. I want to know if we all in accord that when we go out here on this phone, whoever does this - I got no problems with George talking on the phone or somebody else can talk on the phone or myself use the phone - but I want to know is this the format here? We ain't talking about the media, we ain't talking about high-ranking FBI official now. We want what we started with: lights, water, people out from in that tunnel, out from down there.

More talk about negotiations...

GEORGE SKATZES: The way I left it the other night ... that is exactly the way I left it. I told that man that we want power, the TV and water back on, and if he doesn't agree with that then we have nothing more to say.

WERE: George, you got on there say that there. Say from this point, we turn it over to the hardliners. There will be no more conversation. Until we have everything that they took from us from day one you understand? That must be said.

A few minutes later...

UNKNOWN: I feel ... should have been done a couple of days ago ... It's gonna be after this ... if we ... water ... then we kill one of them ... that's the end of it. If they give us water ... we say it right then. Then we kill another that day. The same thing ... That's what I'm saying. That's not righteous, but that's what we had coming into this.

UNKNOWN: We want our lights and ... then we're talking killing ...

JASON ROBB: So that's what I'm saying.

WERE: We give a certain time ... If it's not on in a certain time, that's when a body goes out.

ANTHONY LAVELLE: I'm just using this as a time frame. We give them until 2 p.m. to make their decision. Hang up the phone. Don't answer the phone until 2 p.m. If they say, well, we gonna give you ... tell them no. You got one minute to decide whether you gonna give it all to us or we send somebody out.

Hypothetical time ... And then you tell them you got one minute to decide. What you gonna do? You've had an hour to decide. All right, you count your one minute is up. What are you going to do? They say we'll give you water. Key all right, well you're going to got a body. Hang up the phone. All of us get together. We've already said we're going to this. We send them a body part up out of here.

UNKNOWN: But let's stress the fact that we sending it because you did not meet all of our demands, not because the water or electricity but because you didn't send nothing in here.

LAVELLE: You must tell them through whoever is talking on the phone, must tell them there is, you know, you been on this thing, it looks like it could be a good day for all of us, there is a possibility that we could end this as soon possible.

UNKNOWN: Give them an ultimatum.

LAVELLE: Have to put an end it.

A few minutes later...

LAVELLE: And one of these five hostages gonna have to be sacrificed if we have to ... Even if they kill these (expletive). Everybody has heard of Attica and all these other places where they rioted the OP. If they come in here, if they can get one of these guards... if they do what we said ... (expletive) around ... they still be alive ...

They going to hype this (expletive) up, saying we the one that ... We're the ones stab them. We gonna take this shot whatever. We're the ones that did this to them. They the only ones to be had. If one guy is still alive, all the rest of them already dead.

More about negotiations...

JOHNNY ROPER: OK. This is a closing thing ... I talk with all these guys. OK, your guys. I talk with everybody in the joint, man. And I had conversation with guys that they have been supportive with us from the word go. But when we made statements like we gonna do this and do this. And we didn't fulfill these statements. When we make serious statements. A lot of the guys' morale are down because they don't have the confidence that they had when we first come up in it. Because we ain't made no progress.

See what I'm saying? They also, they also conveyed to me, that, ahh, well ahh, I had to explain to them the Muslims did this ... or the Aryan Brotherhood did this. We might have a different reason, but everybody needs this shit that we did because everybody's getting stepped on. We getting stepped on our way, you getting stopped on your way, you're getting stepped on your way. We all should have the same basic needs. And that's to win, and ... to get out from under oppression. But like I say, they're real supportive, but their morale is going down. Because, you guys, they told me yesterday, you guys was gonna do this two days ago and we ain't did nothing. So we need to make progress to ... ahh, because you can't ask guys to ... ahh ... keep supporting us if we ain't making no change . . . no progress . . . we have to make progress.

Today's stories:
Criminal cases linger
In their own words: Inmates plan murders
Sunday's stories:
Spending cuts endanger reform, advocates say
Widow mourns guard's murder
Key figures during the riot

Police delay in fatal beating investigated
911 call details
DeWine wants to pry open police strategy
Senate president White leads in a gentler style

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