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NJ Grand Jury Indicts 15th Corrections Officer on Inmate Assault Charges at Edna Mahan Facility


By: Najla Alexander

NJ AG authorities announced that a state grand jury has returned a superseding indictment against corrections officers involved in a January 2021 incident at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, in which, as alleged, inmates were forcibly removed from cells without justification, leaving two of the victims seriously injured.

Authorities say the eight-count superseding indictment, voted on by the state grand jury on November 17, 2023, adds charges of conspiracy, official misconduct, tampering with public records, and aggravated assault against Sgt. Matthew Faschan, 35, of Hackettstown.AdOfficials said the prior indictment against 14 other officers was returned in September 2022.

“The State has a responsibility to protect individuals in our custody and our care,” said First Assistant Attorney General Lyndsay V. Ruotolo.

“The allegations in this case reflect a failure to uphold that duty. We will hold accountable those who harm people in state custody, as well as anyone who tries to cover up illegal abuses.”

In addition to Faschan, 14 other defendants, who were previously charged in the September 2022 indictment, were also charged in the superseding indictment, officials stated:

-Sean St. Paul, 57, of Newark

-Ryan Valentin, 46, of Bloomfield

-Eddie Molina, 45, of East Brunswick

-Amir E. Bethea, 38, of Springfield

-Andraia Bridges, 46, of North Plainfield

-Anthony J. Valvano, 41, of Bound Brook

-Brandon Burgos, 24, of Roseland

-Luis A. Garcia, 26, of Nutley

-Courey James, 34, of East Piscataway

-Jose Irizarry, 39, of Paterson

-Desiree Lewis, 34, of Elizabeth

-Gustavo Sarmiento Jr., 30, of Maywood

-Marika Sprow, 34, of West Orange

-Tara Wallace, 38, of SomersetAd According to officials, the 15 indicted officers, who have all been suspended without pay, include four sergeants, one lieutenant, one major, and an associate administrator.

All of the defendants were indicted on one count of conspiracy (2nd degree) and two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), officials said.

Certain defendants were also charged with tampering with public records (3rd degree), aggravated assault (2nd degree), and additional counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), officials say.

The incidents allegedly happened during the overnight hours between January 11 and January 12, 2021, at the facility in Union Township, in Hunterdon County, amid escalating tensions after several incidents of inmates squirting unknown liquids through their cell doors, in some cases striking officers, officials stated.

Officials said cells belonging to inmates suspected of being involved in those “splashing” incidents were allegedly targeted, in an action the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC) refers to as inmate cell extractions.

According to DOC policy, cell extractions should be resorted to only after inmates refuse repeated orders to put on handcuffs and leave their cells on their own or if they pose a threat to themselves or others and refuse to exit a cell.

In this case, prosecutors allege that the officers planned to go into the cells and use force regardless of whether any resistance was encountered, and officials say, in some instances, they did not give the targeted victims an opportunity to comply with orders to put on handcuffs and exit their cells without incident.AdIn other incidents, authorities say, the victims complied with orders to be handcuffed and yet were extracted by force from their cells anyway.

According to officials, the superseding indictment alleges that the officers planned, supervised, took part in, or failed to prevent or report forced cell extractions that were conducted in ways that violated DOC policies “with the purpose of punishing, intimidating, or terrorizing one or more inmates.”

The investigation revealed Faschan, who was previously charged by complaint-summons in February 2021, was assigned to video record the forced cell extractions but purposely did not record certain extractions, failed to intervene to stop or prevent his fellow officers’ improper use of force, failed to report the improper use of force against inmates, and filed a false report about the source of one victim’s injuries.

Officials stated it is alleged that Faschan’s misleading special custody report was designed to deceive the DOC into believing that one victim’s forceable cell extraction was justified and her injuries were self-inflicted.