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Pa. inmates charged with causing riot protesting COVID-19 protocols

“Now is the time to riot, they are trying to kill us in here with COVID in here,” one of the inmates allegedly said


Luzerne County

By Ed Lewis
The Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — At least five inmates were arraigned Friday on allegations they caused a disturbance by throwing plastic chairs and tables in protest of COVID-19 protocols inside the Luzerne County Correctional Facility’s minimal offender building.

Three inmates were charged with initiating a riot.

The incident occurred on the lower tier of the minimal offender building on Reichard Street Dec. 5. The minimal offender building has an upper tier and lower tier, with each tier split in the middle with bunk areas on each side.

Inmates who tested positive for the coronavirus were kept on the upper tier on the right side.

According to the criminal complaints filed against the five inmates:

Inmates on the lower tier objected to being housed in the same unit with inmates who tested positive for the coronavirus.

Inmate Anthony Nieves, 28, initiated a protest just before 6 a.m. on Dec. 5 after he did not receive a Tylenol tablet for personal reasons relating to COVID-19. Anthony Nieves took a plastic chair and placed it in the center of the lower tier day room, an area that is to remain clutter-free during “lights out.”

Inmates Jose Calva, 20, Austin Kochanski, 24, and Wilfredo D. Nieves, 31, joined Anthony Nieves in protest.
Anthony Nieves and Wilfredo Nieves are brothers.

Wilfredo Nieves stood on top of a plastic chair and began displaying street gang hand signs in a disrespectful act toward facility staff, the complaints say.

As the disturbance was growing, inmate Elio Osorio-Soto, 25, brought more plastic chairs to the center of the day room.

Inmates on the upper tier began to take notice of the situation on the lower tier resulting in several inmates, including Anthony Frazio, 44, walking down from the upper tier to the lower tier, the complaints say.

Another inmate was heard yelling, “Now is the time to riot, they are trying to kill us in here with COVID in here,” according to the complaints.

Frazio then began to yell to other inmates to join the disturbance and invited them into a bathroom.

Anthony Nieves, Wilfredo Nieves and Osorio-Soto began to physically fight using chairs to assault each other and other inmates resulting in three corrections officers dispersing pepper spray.

For nearly one hour, inmates threw chairs and tables and poured water onto the floor of the lower tier, and used boiling water to injure inmates on the upper tier, the complaints say.

Additional corrections officers from the main facility arrived at the minimal offenders building to end the riot.

Inmates who have been charged:

  • Anthony Joseph Nieves, two counts of assault by prisoner, and one count each of riot and disorderly conduct.
  • Wilfredo D. Nieves, assault by prisoner, riot and disorderly conduct.
  • Elio Osorio-Soto, two counts of assault by prisoner and one count each of riot and disorderly conduct.
  • Jose Calva, disorderly conduct.
  • Anthony Frazio, riot and disorderly conduct.
  • Austin Kochanski, disorderly conduct.
  • Gerald Hotchkiss, assault by prisoner, riot and disorderly conduct.

County detectives say the riot was recorded by surveillance cameras.

(c)2022 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.)