Maine State Prison guard Cutler accused of assaulting, causing cuffed inmate to fall

Posted:  Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 3:45pm
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ROCKLAND — The Maine State Prison guard arrested late Wednesday afternoon for assaulting an inmate was released from Knox County Jail that night after posting bail.

David Cutler, 54, of Appleton, was charged with class D assault Feb. 20 following an investigation by the state Department of Corrections. Cutler was a captain in the prison at the time of his arrest.

He posted $1,000 unsecured bail, and he is prohibited from returning to the Maine State Prison property without permission of the warden or the warden's designee. He is prohibited from having contact with the victim and two corrections officers identified as witnesses to the alleged assault.

According to an affidavit dated Feb. 15, DOC Investigator Joseph Fagone said an inmate reported to prison staff Dec. 27 that he had been assaulted by Cutler on Christmas Eve morning.

Three days later, the inmate, a 36-year-old man serving 15 years and a day for two counts of aggravated drug trafficking out of Cumberland County, told staff that while he was cuffed with hands behind his back, Cutler and another corrections officer took him to Cutler's office. The inmate also told staff that Cutler and the other officer were removing him because, "he was creating a disturbance in the gym during a holiday get-together."

When he arrived in the office, the inmate said he was ordered by Cutler in a "loud and aggressive manner" to sit down.

"[The inmate] declined to sit, citing the fact that it was his free will to sit or stand and he chose to stand," said the affidavit, adding that he told staff he did not want to sit because he was nervous and did not know what they "planned for him."

Cutler again ordered the inmate to sit down, but he again declined, to which Cutler allegedly responded, "You ain't going to sit? Then I'll make you sit down!"

At that point, the inmate said Cutler reached down behind the handcuffed man's knees with both hands and pulled his legs out from under him, causing him to fall.

According to the affidavit, the incident was witnessed by another corrections officer, who was in Cutler's office at his own desk typing reports. That officer was interviewed by Fagone Jan. 4.

That officer told Fagone that he witnessed the inmate being brought in, handcuffed, by Cutler and another officer. He said Cutler told the inmate to sit down, and that the inmate responded, to the effect, "I'd rather not. I feel more comfortable standing."

Fagone said he asked the officer if the inmate was being aggressive, and he said, "no, he was just standing there" between Cutler and the other officer.

"[The witness officer] stated Cutler then raised his voice, stating, 'You'll do what I tell you when I tell you!'" said Fagone in the affidavit, adding that the officer said as Cutler made the aforementioned statement, he reached down and grabbed the inmate in the area of his knees and pulled his feet out from under him, causing him to fall to the floor.

"[The witness officer] stated Cutler then stated, 'You'll do what I say when I say it!'" said Fagone.

According to the affidavit, the witness officer said that Cutler's voice was "very elevated" at the time and that he was "basically in the [inmate's] face."

"I couldn't believe it. I've seen people flinch or do something and have to be restrained. There was none of this," said the witness officer to the investigator.

When asked by Fagone if the inmate made any aggressive moves toward Cutler or the other office present, the witness officer said no, he saw no aggressive threatening moves on the part of the inmate "at all."

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau, citing probable cause in the affidavit, approved the warrant for Cutler's arrest Feb. 20.

Cutler is due to appear in Knox County District Court April 8 at 8:30 a.m.

At the time of the alleged assault, and six days after Fagone interviewed the witness corrections officer, Warden Patricia Barnhart was terminated from her job at the prison. The DOC has declined to be specific about the reason for Barnhart's termination, but It has been reported that management issues were a part of it.

In a statement, the DOC said: "The department has decided a change in management at the Maine State Prison is in the best interest of the department. Ms. Barnhart will be leaving her position as warden at MSP and assuming a new role within the Department as Policy Development Coordinator, effective March 1, 2013."

Related stories:

Maine State Prison guard arrested today for assaulting inmate

Maine State Prison employee union rep 'shocked' about warden's firing

Maine State Prison warden terminated, state officials officially mum

Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards can be reached by email at hollyedwards@penbaypilot.com or by calling 207-706-6655.