NATCHEZ, Mississippi — An inmate who played a role in the deadly, May 2012 prison riot in Adams County has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The Natchez Democrat reports (http://bit.ly/17LYR0O) that Ernesto Lizama-Reynaga and his attorney protested the sentence, saying Lizama-Reynaga was not an instigator and did not attack any guards at the privately-run prison.
However, U.S. District Judge David Bramlette said Tuesday that Lizama-Reynaga had a criminal history four-and-a-half pages long that included armed robbery, receiving stolen property, harassment, menacing, assault, attempted assault, drunkenness and re-entry of a deported alien. Bramlette said Lizama-Reynaga could have gotten a longer sentence under sentencing guidelines.
One guard was killed and 20 people were injured in the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds immigrants convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally.
The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after deportation for being in the country illegally. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation's largest private prison companies.
Several other inmates have been charged with participating in the riot.
Lizama-Reynaga told the judge that he had only pleaded guilty to rioting in order to get reassigned to a new correctional facility
Lizama-Reynaga had previously agreed with the U.S. Attorney's Office's factual basis read into the court record for his guilty plea that included assertions the government could prove he had been seen carrying a pole and piece of concrete, striking windows with a commissary tray and throwing items from the Adams County Correctional Center's kitchen during the riot.
At his sentencing Tuesday, however, the defendant recanted his agreement with those assertions.
Bramlette denied Lizama-Reynaga's request for a reduction in sentence based on acceptance of responsibility in part because of the inmate's change in his story, noting that during a pre-sentencing investigation with federal probation officers Lizama-Reynaga reportedly said "he only pleaded guilty to be removed from the Madison County Correctional Center, which everyone wants out of."
Lizama-Reynaga's attorney, Aafram Sellers, argued that sentencing should be lenient in part because he was not alleged to have attacked guards directly and because others who played similar roles in the riot had been given sentences of 40 to 60 months.
Bramlette said under sentencing guidelines, Lizama-Reynaga could have received a sentence of 130-162 months.
Information from: The Natchez Democrat, http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/