Prosecutors: Inmate waited to kill Nanticoke correctional officer

U.S. Assistant Attorney Frances Sempa said the brutal killing of CO Eric Williams was “Well planned, premeditated murder.”

By Edward Lewis
The Times-Leader 

WILKES-BARRE — A shackled Jessie Con-Ui sat motionless for more than one hour Thursday as a federal prosecutor described how he allegedly killed correctional officer Eric Williams more than two years ago.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Frances Sempa said the brutal killing of Williams, 34, of Nanticoke, inside the Canaan Federal Correction Complex near Waymart, Wayne County, on Feb. 25, 2013, was “Well planned, premeditated murder.” Sempa explained Con-Ui possessed three makeshift weapons known as shanks and waited for Williams to begin walking up stairs to begin counting inmates.

As Williams began to ascend the stairs, he was in a vulnerable position, Sempa said, as Con-Ui kicked him in the head before stabbing him repeatedly with two shanks.

Sempa along with Con-Ui’s attorneys, David Ruhnke of Montclaire, New Jersey, and Mark Fleming, of Encinitas, California, appeared before U.S. District Court Judge A. Richard Caputo arguing about the release of hundreds of federal prison records, including correctional officer misconduct reports.

Con-Ui’s attorneys are seeking all misconduct reports filed against correctional officers at every federal prison throughout the country dating to 2005, a request Sempa called “irrelevant.”

Con-Ui appeared at the pre-trial hearing via video conference from the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. The only time Con-Ui moved was to whisper to an attorney who sat next to him in the Colorado federal prison.

Fleming said the request for all misconduct reports against all correctional officers in the country is vital to their defense if Con-Ui is found guilty. He claims the reports show a pattern of misconducts by correctional officers against inmates, including Con-Ui, who has been in the federal prison system for nearly nine years serving a life sentence for a murder in Arizona.

‘Ongoing battle’

“It’s been an ongoing battle with the Bureau of Prisons to gather this information,” Fleming told Caputo.

Fleming believes excessive abuse by correctional officers toward inmates caused Con-Ui to retaliate toward Williams.

“We’re not going to be offering excuses about what happened to Officer Williams,” Fleming said. “What happened to Officer Williams is inexcusable.”

Fleming said soon after Con-Ui was transferred from Canaan to the Allenwood federal prison, he expressed remorse to a prison chaplain. Fleming claimed officials at the Allenwood prison attempted to delete an email from the chaplain about Con-Ui’s weeping remorse.

Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Con-Ui if he is convicted of first-degree murder.

Sempa said the request by Con-Ui’s attorneys for records from every federal prison has “no relevance” to what happened to Williams.

Con-Ui misconduct

Sempa said Con-Ui has received 39 misconduct reports since his time behind bards, including stabbing another inmate and threatening to kill a correctional officer.

Sempa said Con-Ui felt “disrespected” because he blamed Williams for having his cell searched one hour before the deadly assault.

“Searching a cell is not a misconduct,” Sempa told Caputo, noting Con-Ui immediately disengaged Williams’ radio that had a distress button.

“The defense has not put forward any evidence that (Con-Ui) was abused,” Sempa said. “The only evidence is Con-Ui felt disrespected because his cell was searched.”

Caputo will issue a decision at a later date. No timeframe has been set.

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