07/05/2006

Former Fla. prisons chief to plead guilty

By RON WORD
The Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida's former prisons chief, ousted amid an wide-ranging investigation into criminal activity within the state corrections system, will plead guilty to accepting kickbacks, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Two law enforcement officials close to the case also said Wednesday that new charges were expected against almost a dozen current and former prison employees. The officials requested anonymity because of a pending official announcement.

The federal charge accuses former Florida Corrections Secretary James Crosby of accepting $130,000 (euro101,610) from a contractor over a 2 1/2-year period that ended in February, according to the documents.

Gov. Jeb Bush forced Crosby to resign in February over the scandal.

Crosby's attorney, Steven R. Andrews of Tallahassee, said his client has been in contact with federal prosecutors about the process of surrendering and setting a court date to enter a plea.

"We don't expect him to be arrested but expect him to turn himself in shortly," Andrews said.

He said Crosby had no immediate comment.

Crosby, who started in the prison system in 1975, was a former warden at Florida State Prison and headed the nation's third largest corrections system.

Over the final months of his tenure as corrections secretary, the department faced intense scrutiny over arrests related to alleged steroid abuse by guards, accusations of sexual assault and the arrest of a former minor league baseball player who was allegedly hired only to help a Florida prison employee softball team.

In March, new Corrections Department chief James McDonough fired nine prison officials after a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded that Crosby tried to shut down an investigation into possible criminal activity among employees in the prison system. It said Crosby had threatened to review the conduct of one of his employees — whose father was then head of FDLE — if the investigation continued.

State officials in May announced that the Department of Corrections would begin random testing of employees for illegal drugs, following a series of allegations of misconduct by high-ranking agency employees and guards, including a prison-based steroid peddling ring.

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