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Md. inmate pleads guilty in officer's stabbing

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Law Enforcement

CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — A convicted double murderer had 20 years added to his sentence Tuesday for stabbing a correctional officer in an attack that prompted a management shake-up at the maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland.

Richard Crawford, 45, was already serving life plus 30 years for killing his parents in Prince George's County in 1993 and stabbing an officer at another prison in 2007.

Neither prison stabbing was fatal.

Crawford made no statement during the sentencing phase of his plea hearing Tuesday in Allegany County Circuit Court. He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree assault in the Aug. 5 attack on Herbert Hilliard, a four-year veteran who was stabbed multiple times with a homemade, 5-inch knife. Prosecutors dropped five other charges in return for his guilty plea.

After the attack, the state workers union, the American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees, released a handwritten letter that an anonymous inmate apparently had written to a supervisory staff member several days earlier, saying he would order attacks on Hilliard and another officer unless they were reassigned to another cell tier. The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services says Hilliard was never told of the threat, a violation of agency policy. The other officer was informed and wasn't harmed, union officials say.

Crawford apologized for stabbing Hilliard in a letter to the state prison agency, State's Attorney Michael Twigg said.

Crawford's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Michael Stankan, told the court that prison life "is obviously a different world."

"There are many kinds of things that go on that people on the outside wouldn't understand," he said.

Union leaders said the attack on Hilliard was the fourth inmate assault on officers at the prison in less than a month. Afterward, the union demanded the resignations of five senior staff and agency managers for their alleged failures to address security at the prison.

One of those people, the prison's former security chief, Keith Arnold, was demoted and reassigned to another prison about three weeks later. On the same day, the department announced the retirement of former regional executive director Jon Galley but said his departure wasn't related to the attack.

Last month, the department fired the prison warden, Bobby Shearin, saying his leadership failures had created distrust and safety risks. Union officials criticized the move, saying Shearin wasn't the problem.

Spokesman Mark Vernarelli said Tuesday that the department took disciplinary action against another, unidentified staff supervisor, who is appealing the action.

No other inmates have been charged in the case.

"This is still on ongoing investigation," Vernarelli said in an email.

Jeff Grabenstein, president of the officers' union local in Cumberland, said Hilliard hasn't returned to work. He said Shearin had enforced restrictions on inmate movements that are being rolled back under the new regime, and officers are worried.

"Right now, there is an eerie feeling in there that it's not going to be too long and it's going to blow up again," Grabenstein said.

Crawford was sentenced to life plus 20 years in 1994 for the murders of his parents Willie and Martha, who were shot.

He was sentenced to 10 more years in 2007 for stabbing Correctional Officer Edouardo Edouazin at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

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