Teen, Guard Involved in Horseplay at Time of Guard’s Death

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Cleveland, OH—Controversy still surrounds the death of a youth prison guard at the hands of an inmate, despite a plea deal having been struck.

According to his lawyer, Hubert Morgan, 18, was allegedly wrestling or roughhousing with a guard at the facility, William Hesson. A blow to the abdomen caused Hesson, 39, to die from a cardiac rhythm disturbance. The death was ruled a homicide. As a result of the encounter, Morgan would have been facing both murder and felonious assault charges. On Monday, however, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a deal which will let him avoid a trial.

Morgan, who was only 17 at the time of the incident with the now-deceased guard, is scheduled to be sentenced at a hearing in early February. He could face punishment ranging from probation to 10 years in prison.

Morgan was incarcerated at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in suburban Cleveland, had had behavioral problems since entering the youth prison system in August 2008. He had been involved in 15 assaults, three cases of unspecified disruptive behavior and two incidents of sexual assault.

Another teen at the facility had testified that Hesson and Morgan were wrestling, and that the guard put the youth in a headlock just prior to the fatal abdominal blow. Prosecutors in the case, however, alleged that Morgan was the only person who could have known what occurred, since the incident took place in a small closet area. Some sources indicated that this closet area was frequently used by guards, who would take the inmates back there in order to roughhouse, despite a specific work rule that prohibits such behavior between guards and teens.

An August 2009 investigation into juvenile detention centers uncovered dozens of incidents, at four state youth detention centers in New York state, in which guards or other workers had used force to subdue the incarcerated youths. A lawsuit brought in Ohio, alleging inappropriate use of force on the part of guards in a similar facility, has prompted the state to revamp its juvenile disciplinary system.

The Department of Youth Services conducted its own investigation into the death of Hesson and is expected to release findings later this week.

 

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