When a cluster of Florida prison guards took turns beating a prisoner at Lake Correctional Institution near Orlando, it was not unprecedented. Prisoners say beatings by Florida prison staff are common, though usually they occur outside the range of cameras. This beating was captured on a smuggled-in cellphone operated by an inmate, who provided narration. It was posted on YouTube, causing four staffers to lose their jobs. The Lake County State Attorney’s Office has decided on the legal consequences for the men discharged for allegedly taking part in the caught-on-video beatdown and then lying about it: nothing, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Criminal charges filed in connection with the beating have been dropped. In the footage from July 8, 2019, a group of officers is shown repeatedly striking the inmate, Otis Miller. The unidentified inmate who recorded the beating can be heard saying, “This is why we are in fear of our life.” He noted that Miller's his head appeared swollen. Miller suffered multiple injuries including broken ribs.
In dropping charges, the state attorney’s office said it was impossible to determine which blows caused the injuries sustained by Miller, 47. Prosecutors also noted that Miller’s injuries could have occurred before the camera started shooting. Less than a year later at the same prison, Christopher Howell, 51, an inmate serving time for stealing four phone chargers, died after being beaten by staff. Howell was redacted from a publicly available list of inmates who died under custody that year. Corrections officer Michael Riley Jr. was charged with second-degree murder. As in Miller’s case, staffers were accused of tailoring their reports in an attempt to absolve officers. A pat down triggered the beating of Miller, who was serving time for battery on a law officer and selling cocaine. After the video surfaced, the Florida Department of Corrections released a statement condemning the actions of the officers and announced their immediate termination. Ian Gretka was charged with committing aggravated battery and malicious battery. His fellow officers, Hunter Lingo, Joshua Petersilge and Capt. Milton Gass, were charged with acting as principals. Under Florida criminal law, a principal is someone who has helped another person commit or attempt to commit a crime. An affidavit shows that Gass was charged with perjury for submitting a false use-of-force report to the Florida Department of Corrections. After the incident, Gass met with the other involved officers, gathered information about their involvement, wrote their reports for them, and then “commanded, encouraged, or requested,” that they sign and submit the reports knowing that they included false information.