Two inmates accused of taking a Department of Corrections employee hostage this month in Newport are to face criminal charges.Mehmed Devac, 22, and Leroy Hughes, 32, will be arraigned on charges of kidnapping and aggravated assault in Orleans County criminal court in October, according to the Vermont State Police.
Devac and Hughes allegedly took hostage a correctional officer in their cell at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport on Aug. 11.
Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard testified to the Joint Legislative Justice Oversight Committee last week that the encounter began after staff at the prison noticed that the prisoners had new tattoos that had not been there when they entered the facility.
Correctional staff decided to do a shakedown to search the cell the two inmates shared.
Malcolm Brown, a correctional officer, followed one prisoner into the cell. According to Menard, the other inmate came in after them and closed the door.
Menard said one inmate was armed with a homemade "fairly serious weapon." The Vermont State Police described it as a "bladed object."
The cell was on the second floor of the prison unit, visible to an officer standing at a podium area on the first floor. That officer immediately called for assistance, according to Menard, and emergency response staff were on the scene within moments, she said.
While the Newport facility staff members trained in emergency response began hostage negotiations right away, special response team members at other prisons were called in for support. The Vermont State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, Newport City Police and Orleans County Sheriff's Department went to the facility as well.
Menard said there was an open channel of communication between negotiators and the hostage-takers throughout. They did not block the window to the cell, and negotiators could see Brown and knew he was not injured, she said.
Brown was released unharmed after about two hours.
Devac has been incarcerated since August 2014 on convictions of assault and robbery with injury, aggravated assault and other misdemeanors. Hughes has been incarcerated since June 2015 for grand larceny and assault and robbery with a weapon.
Menard told lawmakers she learned later that Brown is fairly popular and well-respected among the prison's population.
"After the event, inmates actually asked, inquired of him to make sure that he was OK," Menard said.
Menard told lawmakers it was an example of the systems functioning well.
"The staff member was not injured. The inmates were not injured," Menard said. "It was a good end result. Everything worked in this case."