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Ex-Halawa prison guard pleads guilty to meth smuggling

July 22, 2014 - 3:49pm

HONOLULU — A former guard at the Halawa Correctional Facility pleaded guilty Tuesday to smuggling methamphetamine into the prison and accepting bribes.

Mark Damas, 36, who was fired from his job in April for bringing contraband into the prison, pleaded guilty in federal court in Honolulu to charges involving conspiracy to distribute meth and receiving bribes.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright threated not to accept Damas’ guilty plea when he hesitated in explaining his role in the conspiracy and insisted he didn’t knowingly bring drugs into the prison. “This isn’t the time to lie to me,” Seabright told Damas.

After conferring with his defense attorney, Rustam Barbee, in a corner of the courtroom, Damas told the judge, “I received it from outside sources and agreed to smuggle it in.” He explained that he would take a drug order from an inmate and then pick up drugs from an outside source. He would then drop it off near the prison, because he was subjected to a search before reporting for duty.

A third party, who presumably wasn’t subject to a search, would somehow bring the drugs into the prison, and Damas would deliver it to the inmates, he said.

Damas said he received at least $5,000 in bribes.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison when he’s sentenced Nov. 10, and a maximum of 40 years, for the distribution count. The bribe count carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

A criminal complaint filed in January says he also took bribes to smuggle in other items such as cigarettes, lighters and drug paraphernalia.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agree to drop two other distribution counts.

Damas, a corrections officer for nearly 10 years, “abused a position of trust,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake said.

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