Cowboy Justice

They ran the toughest cellblock in the most dangerous prison in the state. It was the perfect place to beat inmates.

In his ruling on Rollins's claims, Judge Richard Matsch wrote that he'd found parts of Rollins's story to be "not credible," but there were serious problems with the guards' accounts, too. In fact, a lot of what the officers had to say about how Rollins got his clock cleaned simply couldn't be believed, Matsch decided, and the BOP's own investigations into the incident were "lethargic and poorly documented." Matsch ended up awarding Rollins $5,000 for his trouble, plus attorneys' fees.

Matsch dismissed Rollins's claims against regional and national BOP officials, ruling that they had no involvement in the matter. In fact, the only person on the administrative side of USP Florence to face criminal charges over the troubles there is Christine Auchenbach, the former public information officer who used to field reporters' questions about the Cowboys investigation. A few weeks ago, Auchenbach was sentenced to five years of probation for another kind of abuse of power: having sex with two inmates.

Understandably, the absence of any commanders' names from the Cowboy indictment was a sore point among the defendants. "Why isn't Hines at the front of the table?" asked Pruyne's attorney, Daniel Smith. "Why does this conspiracy stop where the brass starts?"

Mark Andresen
Split decision: Robert Verbickas was found guilty of 
beating inmates.
Mark Manger
Split decision: Robert Verbickas was found guilty of beating inmates.

It was a damn good question. The Cowboys got indicted. Their supervisors got promoted. Every corrections officer knows that the bodies on the front line are the ones who get blamed for everything, regardless of how it goes down. Still, these seven men, men who wielded such extraordinary power over the lives of other human beings, never expected to find themselves quite so alone, so vulnerable, like...like prisoners.

Perhaps their crime was thinking they were above the law, but they weren't the only people in the Florence pen who thought that way. Their folly was believing that the people who truly had the power, the ones who'd told them to take care of business, would still be standing by them when the business failed.

For related stories please see Crime and Punishment

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