From the Providence Journal Saturday 4-10-99. On Feb. 23, 1996 Jesse Souza, an inmate in the Adult Correctional Institution, was struck in the face, hit with an object, knocked to the ground and kicked an indeterminate number of times by prison guards. The beating went unreported for two days until a nurse noticed bruises under Mr. Souza's eyes and a cut on his nose. A jury convicted Kenneth Saritelli and William Shinn, both former prison guards, of beating Mr. Souza and conspiring to hide the crime. A third guard, Robert Rapson, was fired after the department investigated the incident. He is awaiting trial for lying to the Grand Jury.
Caught.net has received email stating that William Shinn, former CO, was recently cleared of assaulting Jesse Souza. The following article was received. Pay particular attention to how the state handles people that are willing to fight for their rights.
When they walked from the courthouse last Tuesday after closing arguments, he and his wife were feeling down. They didn't think the trial had gone well. The state that he used to work for had slammed him pretty good. And it wasn't the first time. So Wednesday was one of those Christmas-morning, first-kiss, hit-the-lottery kind of days.
Because on Wednesday, a Superior Court jury returned to the courtroom after little more than two hours of deliberation and said William Shinn was not guilty. He tried to thank the jurors as they left the courtroom, but was barely able to croak the words. A six-year ordeal that had drained his finances and sapped his spirit was over. So he cried and hugged the people who mattered and didn't say much. "For so long I've been trying to get people to listen and believe in me," he said as we talked Friday morning. "Finally, it's done, and I can move on."
The verdict in his second trial for conspiracy in the beating of an inmate at the ACI came just a week-and-a-half before his graduation from Salve Regina. He will receive a bachelor's degree in social work on May 18. He has also taken the state exam to become a probation/parole officer. And he is thinking about graduate school at Boston College. He arranged his school work around his court appearances. It has not been easy trying to set his life in a new direction while facing the ugly possibilities of a criminal conviction.
He paid for his education with college funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs. He spent three years in the Marines after his graduation from Middletown High School in 1986. I really like the explanation he gives for why he moved from the Marines to the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. "What else is an antitank-assault man going to do?" He went to the correctional officers academy, then to the old medium security building at the ACI.
Then along came Jesse Souza, who walked away from a work-release job while serving a sentence for breaking and entering. Souza was not a master criminal. His escape, in February 1996, lasted one day. And as he was returned to the ACI, he charged that Shinn and another guard, Kenneth Saritelli, assaulted him. Shinn, with not-to-worry assurances from fellow guards, didn't give the charge much thought. Inmates were always charging guards with assault.
But this time, the charge stuck. State police showed up at Shinn's house in Warwick on Oct. 31 and arrested him. His daughter was in her Halloween costume. Shinn and Saritelli were fired a few months later. And in April 1999, a Superior Court jury found Saritelli guilty of assault with a dangerous weapon. It found Shinn guilty of conspiracy to commit assault and battery and misdemeanor assault and battery.
The one thing that has impressed me most in Shinn's story is what happened when the lawyer in his first trial, Josh Macktaz, appealed his conviction. The state responded by offering a deal -- drop the appeal and give up all claims to reinstatement and back pay and the charges would be filed and later expunged. Caught.net note: Note the state's response in essence says, "Shut up, go away and make it look like we didn't make a mistake and everything will be fine."
Shinn responded by saying he hadn't done anything wrong and had no reason to make a deal. The state Supreme Court overturned his conviction in January of last year on the grounds that information allegedly gathered by the state police from another inmate at the ACI had not been made available to Shinn's previous lawyer (Macktaz) before trial.
Shinn hoped that was the end of it. But earlier this year, the attorney general's office decided to retry the case. On the recommendation of several people he knew and trusted, Shinn hired lawyer Mark Smith to represent him in the second trial. And last Wednesday it really did come to an end. William Shinn, who refused to make a deal and compromise his reputation, walked out of court free of all the ugly debris of a long and bitter case. But he's 34 and he's broke. He has to start looking for work. He could be looking at reinstatement and a bundle of back pay, but he's not sure if prison guard is a job he wants to go back to. After all, the Marine antitank-assault man has a few more options now. "But maybe it would be worth it to walk in one last day and take the count," he says. There would be a certain justice in that.