MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – An officer at a South Florida juvenile detention center is facing federal charges after a 17-year-old died after a beating by other inmates that was encouraged by the officer, an indictment stated.
Antwan Lenard Johnson, 35, was arrested Monday morning as he arrived to work at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center. He is charged with conspiracy and deprivation of the teenager’s rights under color of law.
“The United States Constitution protects every person in this country, including those who are detained in juvenile detention facilities,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin G. Greenberg. “It is an honor and privilege to work with the many outstanding agents and officers who are part of our law enforcement community. These brave individuals put their lives on the line every day to protect us all and make our communities safer. But we are committed to bringing to justice the small minority of law enforcement officials when they abuse their authority and violate the civil rights of another.”
The indictment claims Johnson used a bounty system and rewards to encourage inmates at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center to use violence to punish bad behavior by other inmates.
The inmate rewards included extra recreation time and snacks, the indictment stated.
The victim, previously identified as Elord Revolte, was assaulted by other juveniles on Aug. 30, 2015, because of unspecified “statements and behavior” from Revolte during dinner at the JDC cafeteria, court documents stated.
According to the indictment, Johnson told some of the inmates that he wanted them to attack Revolte.
Prosecutors said a number of juveniles agreed, which caused Revolte to become afraid and stand away from the other juveniles prior to and while returning to Module 9, where they were being held.
The indictment stated that as soon as Johnson walked out of view, one juvenile punched Revolte int he face as the teen tried to sit down in a chair. Numerous other juveniles immediately joined int he attack and punched and kicked the victim, even after the teen fell to the floor, prosecutors said.
The indictment stated that Johnson released all of the Module 9 inmates from their cells after Revolte was taken to the JDC medical department and rewarded them by allowing them to watch TV and also gave them snacks.
Johnson also bumped fists with the inmate who initiated the attack on the victim, the indictment stated.
Police said the Aug. 30 fight involved as many as 20 inmates.
Revolte was eventually transferred to Holtz Children’s Hospital, where he died the day after the attack.
Five staff members were fired shortly after Revolte’s death for failing to conduct youth checks and falsifying documents, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Heather DiGiacomo said in 2015.
DiGiacomo said three of the fired employees were supervisors.
But, for unknown reasons, Johnson wasn’t among the employees fired in 2015.
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christina K. Daly said in a statement Monday that the department is now “taking immediate action to terminate this employee.”
“The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s primary focus is to ensure the safety and security of all youth in our care, and our entire staff was saddened by the very sudden and untimely death of Elord Revolte,” Daly said in part. “It is our expectation that any staff who jeopardize the safety of youth be held fully accountable for their actions, including criminal prosecution. The behavior detailed in the indictment is appalling and inexcusable.”
Daly said the department fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so.
Authorities said Revolte was being held at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center after an armed robbery arrest in Miami Beach.
Miami-Dade County chief assistant public defender Marie Osborne said in 2015 that 15 juveniles separately confirmed to lawyers that contraband food was used by staff as rewards for beat-downs.
“If a security guard doesn’t like you, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, do me a favor. If you beat this kid, I’ll give you a Honey Bun,’ and they do it,” Angel Tamayo, a young man who lived in a foster home with several former inmates, including Revolte, said.
Tamayo said the biggest prize “was a pint of Chinese rice.”
Revolte’s last guardian, a foster parent, said she reported the allegations about the bribery beatings to the Department of Children and Families.
“I told the case manager, more than one case manager,” she said. “One kid told me he got beat up because someone offered another boy a Honey Bun to beat him up,” she said, specifying a guard.
It’s unclear whether more staff members will be charged in the case.