Inmate sentenced in deadly Miss. prison riot

By The Associated Press

NATCHEZ, Miss. (AP) — A Mexican man was sentenced Monday to 40 months for his role in a prison riot in Mississippi in which one guard was killed and 20 people were injured.

Juan Lopez-Fuentes was sentenced for participating in the May 20 riot at the privately-run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez, which holds illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in the United States. He pleaded guilty in August.

He was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Natchez. U.S. District Judge David Bramlette also ordered Lopez-Fuentes to pay $1.3 million restitution — the amount of estimated damage that occurred at the facility during the riot.

Lopez-Fuentes’ prison time will be followed by three years of supervised release. He will be turned over to immigration officers and will not be allowed back in the U.S. without written permission.

Lopez-Fuentes was charged with leading a group of inmates who took hostages in one section of the prison. Authorities say he forced one of the hostages to relay orders for tactical teams to drop their weapons and back off.

Lopez-Fuentes was serving time for two previous felonies and was facing deportation.

Prosecutors told Bramlette that Lopez-Fuentes has helped the FBI identify more than 30 inmates who participated in the riot.

Court records say the prisoners were angry about their treatment the day the riot erupted.

The prison holds nearly 2,500 illegal immigrants, most of them convicted on charges of coming back to the U.S. after being deported. The prison is owned by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies.

The FBI affidavit filed in court records says the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, an FBI spokeswoman has said.

It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which grew to involve hundreds of inmates and caused an estimated $1.3 million in damage.

Correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death during the uprising.

The prison’s special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.

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