Last week, a Bronx grand jury indicted Correction Captain Larry Davis Jr. for hitting an inmate with a baton after the inmate assaulted Davis’s brother, who is a correction officer working in the same jail, the Village Voice has learned.
The criminal case against Davis has sparked a wave of criticism of Bronx prosecutors, the DOC, and the Department of Investigation from Correction Department unions, who argue that he is being unfairly treated.They say Davis Jr. simply had an lapse in judgment, fully cooperated with the investigation, and gave statements admitting to the misconduct. And they criticize the department for assigning the two brothers to the same jail.
Read on for the full story.
Larry Davis Jr. is sort of DOC royalty. His father, Larry Davis Sr., rose to Chief of Department, the top uniformed position in the agency. Davis Sr. retired in 2011 amid investigations into his alleged personal use of a department vehicle and of taking a free vacation paid for by his subordinates.
On October 14, 2012, Davis Jr. was a correction captain in the rough-and-tumble George R. Vierno Center. His younger brother, Charles, was a correction officer, also working the day tour.
According to Davis Jr.’s statement to investigators, he heard an alarm and responded to a disturbance in the jail. “A few moments later, I observed my brother being escorted down the main corridor, bleeding from his left eye/swollen cheek and into the main clinic,” Davis Jr. wrote. “I observed inmate Francisco Calderon pass me in close proximity … Calderon smirked and appeared to wink at me.
“I experienced a temporary lapse in judgment. I then swung the baton several times in an attempt to strike Calderon. This writer was immediately restrained by staff which terminated the incident.”
Davis Jr. was demoted to correction officer and placed on modified assignment. He was charged last week with assault and official misconduct. Charles Davis, meanwhile, has been promoted to captain. The inmate, Calderon, was not seriously injured.
“In some of the previous cases they’ve made, they’ve always highlighted the fact that if they just came forward and told the truth, it wouldn’t have ended up as a prosecution,” says Patrick Ferraiuolo, the president of the Captains Benevolent Association. “The only thing Larry Davis is guilty of is being human. His emotions just got the best of him. In my 32 years with this department, these types of cases have always been handled administratively.”
Ferraiuolo is contrasting the Davis case with three other recent prosecutions of DOC staff. Last June, the DA charged 10 correction staffers including the former assistant chief of security with assaulting an inmate and then falsifying use of force reports. In May, 2012, prosecutors charged a former assistant deputy warden and a correction captain with assaulting another inmate and falsifying use of force reports to cover it up. In June, 2012, they charged a probationary captain with assaulting a third inmate and falsifying reports to cover it up.
“He [Davis] tells the truth and still ends up getting indicted,” he added. “I’m not condoning use of force. But sometimes, we make mistakes. We’re human.”
Ferraiuolo suggested that the Davis prosecution could have a chilling effect on behavior of other correction staff. “People are going to be gun shy,” he says. “They are going to be afraid to defend themselves. They are going to be afraid to come to the defense of another officer.”
Sidney Schwartzbaum, president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association, says, “Show me someone who wouldn’t lash out at the person who just beat up their brother, sister or wife, if they saw them right afterward. If the inmate had serious injuries, I would understand, but he didn’t, and Davis told the truth.”
Schwartzbaum and Ferraiuolo say the Davis brothers never should have been assigned to the same jail. “I want to know which moron studying to be an imbecile would assign one brother to supervise the other one in the same jail,” Schwartzbaum says.
The lingering question: Are these complaints related to the fact that conduct that used to be ignored or treated with a slap on the wrist are now handled with criminal prosecutions, the way they should have been in the first place? Kind of looks that way.
Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney, declined to comment beyond the court filings. “Regarding the assignment of DOC personnel, that is for DOC to address.”
The DOC’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Information Eldin Villafane said only that the Department of Investigation initiated the case.
Diane Struzzi, a spokeswoman for the Department of Investigation, did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.