Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Guard Surrenders in Valdes Case Prosecutor Says More People Will Be Arrested

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Prison Guard Surrenders in Valdes Case Prosecutor Says More People Will Be Arrested

Article excerpt

Florida State Prison guard Montrez Lucas turned himself in to Bradford County police yesterday and was charged with three felonies in the beating of prison inmate Frank Valdes in July.

Lucas, 30, was charged with aggravated battery, battery on an inmate and coercion to alter reports, charges that could bring a 25-year prison sentence. Authorities said Lucas beat Valdes on July 16, and then altered reports to hide his actions.

But a prosecutor in Gainesville said yesterday he still expects murder charges will be filed in the death of Valdes, a Death Row inmate who died a day after a violent confrontation with several guards. A grand jury is continuing to investigate the circumstances of Valdes' death.

"These [charges against Lucas] are separate and indirect, and yet they're part of the total investigation, and we still believe we'll make further arrests in the death of Frank Valdes," said Spencer Mann of the State Attorney's Office in Gainesville.

Lucas was charged in a sealed indictment released last week by a 21-member grand jury that has been investigating Valdes' death since Sept. 29. The indictment was unsealed yesterday, and Mann said Lucas' attorneys had arranged for the prison guard to turn himself in to authorities, which he did just after 7 a.m. yesterday.

Lucas is one of nine Florida State Prison guards suspended after the death of Valdes, who authorities say died of multiple blunt trauma. An autopsy showed all Valdes' ribs were broken and he had boot marks on his body.

In their official reports, some of the suspended guards said Valdes fought with them when they tried to remove him from his cell after he made threats against Lucas. The guards also said Valdes later caused his own injuries by launching himself off his cell bars onto the floor and his metal cot.

Lucas, of Raiford, appeared briefly yesterday before Bradford County Judge Johnny Hobbs, then paid a $50,000 bond and was released. Lucas was assigned a public defender, John Kearns of Gainesville, who couldn't be reached for comment.

None of the other guards has been charged so far, but the remaining eight suspended guards and two others are scheduled to appear with their attorneys today in a meeting with prosecutors from Gainesville. …

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