Inmate Wrongly Released, Captured in West Virginia

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Baltimore—Authorities at a Baltimore prison mistakenly set the wrong man free last week, and several people have been charged in the caper.

Raymond Taylor, 26, was posing as William Johnson, another inmate at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center. Taylor was serving a life sentence for attempted murder at the former “Supermax” facility which now serves as a way station for inmates who are either awaiting court appearances or release, or who are in the process of being transferred from one institution to another. Taylor had been moved to the facility pending his appearance in a civil case in a Somerset County court.

According to officials at the prison, Taylor was released on Thursday afternoon after he presented an ID card bearing Johnson’s name and photo. Upon being asked to recite his prison ID number for verification of his identity, Taylor correctly gave Johnson’s ID number. A spokesperson for the Division of Correction, Mark Vernarelli, said in a prepared statement that the two men share “similar physical characteristics,” which may have helped account for the mix-up.

Johnson, who was scheduled to be released on Thursday, has been charged with conspiracy and could now face up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the conspiracy charges. He had been serving a two-year sentence for burglary and assault in Baltimore City.

Taylor was convicted in 2005 of three counts of attempted first-degree murder and other, related counts, including assault and weapons violations. He was given three life sentences.

Officials have not yet determined how Taylor acquired the identification card and number from Johnson, nor whether there was collusion on the part of prison employees. Officials with the Division of Corrections did admit that there were problems related to protocol and procedure that contributed to the incident.

After the mistake was discovered, at about 3:45 local time, authorities tracked Taylor to Martinsburg, WV, where he was discovered hiding in the bedroom closet of a friend’s home. He was caught by a multi-agency task force consisting of Baltimore city and Maryland state police. Taylor was extradited to Maryland to face charges relating to the false release. The friend in whose home Taylor was discovered will also face charges of harboring a fugitive.

 

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