AUBURN — A second corrections officer has been suspended without pay amid an investigation at Auburn Correctional Facility, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision confirmed Friday.
In December 2016, DOCCS launched an investigation at Auburn prison after a corrections officer admitted to planting a weapon on an inmate. At the time, DOCCS suspended the officer, Matthew Cornell, without pay and placed two other unnamed officers on administrative leave.
Now, DOCCS' spokesperson Thomas Mailey said one of those officers has since been suspended without pay while the other has been reinstated at the prison.
"One of the two officers previously on administrative leave has also been suspended without pay," Mailey wrote Friday in an email to The Citizen. "The second officer has been returned to work."
DOCCS would not provide the name of the second suspended officer. However, Mailey confirmed that Cornell remains suspended without pay.
DOCCS’ Office of Special Investigations is in charge of the investigation at the prison. That investigation is ongoing.
After Cornell's suspension, Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said his office met with local judges on the matter and reached out to nine defendants charged in cases involving Cornell. Six of those defendants have since had their cases dismissed or convictions vacated.
“We had sent out letters on six cases that were in various stages of prosecution here that we consented to dismiss or vacate," Budelmann said in a press release in January. "There were three other cases that we had notified but did not consent to vacate because the officer was minimally involved."
The district attorney noted that many of the defendants had previously pleaded guilty in these cases. However, Budelmann said his office decided the convictions should be vacated in the interest of justice.
Meanwhile, several local defense attorneys have brought additional cases to court with motions to vacate their clients' convictions.
On Thursday, defense attorney Rome Canzano asked Cayuga County Court Judge Thomas Leone to vacate the conviction of 29-year-old Peterson Ruiz. Ruiz pleaded guilty in September to first-degree promoting prison contraband.
As to why Ruiz pleaded guilty, Canzano said it came down to credibility, the word of an officer versus the word of an inmate.
"It has nothing to do with guilt or innocence," Canzano said in a phone call Friday. "In essence, we were provided information that we had a law enforcement officials' word about an event versus the word of a convicted felon and the defendant is forced to make a choice between taking the risk of losing at trial or admitting guilt and having a known outcome.
"It's two to four years in prison versus 15 years to life if they lose as trial," Canzano added. "That's the decision."
Defense attorney Ryan Muldoon also presented a motion to vacate a conviction Thursday in the case of Jkendric Agee, who was convicted of first-degree promoting prison contraband after a jury trial in November.
In both cases, Canzano and Muldoon argued that the credibility of the officers involved is questionable in light of DOCCS' ongoing investigation at the prison.
"I'm not attempting to besmirch the names of all corrections officers," Canzano said Friday. "However, without any specific names or information being released, it is impossible to know who was or wasn't involved in all of this."
Budelmann opposed both attorneys' motions, saying Cornell was not involved in either case.
"I am only aware of one correction officer implicated for putting a weapon on an inmate," Budelmann wrote in an email to The Citizen. "The implicated officer neither discovered nor recovered the dangerous weapon (Ruiz) admitting to possessing ... and (Agee's) case did not involve the correction officer implicated in this conduct in any way."
Ruiz is scheduled to reappear in court March 23. Agee's case has been adjourned until April 6.