Fla. CO found guilty of conspiring to hit inmate with broomstick

Terrance Reynolds had been acquitted at an earlier trial but now faces up to 10 years on a conspiracy conviction

Jay Weaver
Miami Herald

MIAMI — A correctional officer who had survived his first Miami federal trial in the fall on a civil-rights conspiracy charge accusing him of threatening or assaulting three inmates was not so lucky the second time around.

Terrance Reynolds, 30, was found guilty Friday by a federal jury on the conspiracy charge of hitting one youthful offender with a broomstick in a mop closet and punching another inmate in a disciplinary room at a state correctional facility in Miami-Dade County three years ago.

Reynolds, who was hired as a state correctional officer in 2015 and fired at the end of 2018, was charged not only with the conspiracy charge but also with depriving the rights of two offenders at the South Florida Reception Center. However, the 12-person jury acquitted him of those two additional charges.

Reynolds, who had been acquitted at his first trial in September, now faces up to 10 years in prison on the conspiracy conviction at his May 5 sentencing before U.S. District Judge Donald Graham. He remains free on bond.

Federal prosecutors said Reynolds joined forces with another correctional officer, Brendan Butler, who had pleaded guilty to the civil-rights conspiracy charge and testified against his former co-worker at the state youthful offender facility in Doral. Butler, who resigned after the inmate attacks, was sentenced to two years in prison.

“The purpose of the conspiracy was to use excessive force and the threat of such force to physically assault and intimidate youthful offenders as punishment for conduct perceived to be unacceptably disruptive and disrespectful,” according to an indictment.

Reynolds’ defense attorney, Antonio Valiente, said that Butler, 31, was the bad guy in the alleged beatings, not his client.

At trial, prosecutors not only called Butler and other correctional officers as witnesses but also two youthful offenders who witnessed the alleged beating of a third inmate in the mop closet on March 17, 2017.

According to evidence and court records, Butler and Reynolds took the three youthful offenders into the mop closet of the “Bravo” dormitory to intimidate them. Once inside, the officers confronted them about disrespecting female correctional officers.

When one youthful offender, Andre Lopez, laughed and talked back, Butler slapped him in the face, according to testimony and records. Lopez tried to punch Butler but missed, and then attempted to tackle him. Butler pushed Lopez to the floor of the mop closet and told Reynolds that he wanted to fight him “one on one” — a commonplace occurrence at the Miami-Dade facility but a violation of state correctional rules.

After the initial fight in the mop closet, Reynolds took the other two youthful offenders, Yandro Lopez-Malpica and Michael Burcks, out of the closet and returned with a broomstick in hand. Reynolds beat the remaining inmate, Andre Lopez, around the legs, prosecutors said.

They pointed to medical photos taken four days after the assault showing large welts and bruises on Lopez’s lower extremities.

In another incident on March 28, 2017, Burcks was accused of spreading a rumor that Butler had been beaten up by Lopez in the mop closet. For punishment, Burcks was taken to solitary confinement in the “Echo” dormitory.

Butler and Reynolds went to visit Burcks in the Echo dorm, where they found him sitting down and handcuffed in the breezeway, according to testimony and records. Reynolds removed his handcuffs and told him to go to the “disciplinary room.”

Inside, Reynolds and Burcks launched into a one-on-one fight, with the correctional officer punching him in the stomach and forcing him to the floor, according to testimony and records. Butler asked Burcks why he was spreading false rumors about the mop closet altercation, and then slapped and punched him in the stomach.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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