The Richmond Register

Crime

February 21, 2013

Inmate who escaped work-release to serve an additional 5 years

RICHMOND — The inmate whose escape while on work-release led to the resignation of the Berea Street Department superintendent was sentenced Thursday to an additional five years in prison.

Christopher Northern, 36, pleaded guilty to second-degree escape. He could have received a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith agreed to recommend dismissing Northern’s indictment as a second-degree persistent felony offender.

Northern told Madison Circuit Court Judge Jean C. Logue he had received word his father was seriously ill, and he walked away from his work assignment at the Berea City Park on Aug. 30 so he could spend time with his ailing parent.

Northern was captured nearly three and a half months later by the U.S. Marshals Service.

Northern originally was arrested Jan. 27, 2012, and was held under a $5,000 bond. He was charged with four counts of second-degree possession of a forged instrument, receiving stolen property (under $10,000) and probation violations for a felony offense, according to jail records.

The five-year sentence for escape will run consecutively with the two- and three-year sentences Northern is serving in the prior cases.

Because he already is serving time and there was no chance of probation, Northern waived his right to a presentencing investigation report and asked Logue to sentence him Thursday after he pleaded guilty.

Northern’s escape prompted city officials to conduct an administrative investigation of the street department, Mayor Steve Connelly reported earlier this week at a Berea city council meeting.

The investigation found inmates were not being properly supervised by street department employees. Work-release inmates were allowed to talk on cell phones and purchase items from gas stations that would be considered contraband back at the Madison County Detention Center, City Attorney J.T. Gilbert said.

Also uncovered was the fact wash bays were being used for personal vehicles, and city equipment was being loaned out to employees, Gilbert added.

As a result of these findings, three workers were required to take time off without pay, one was terminated and the department’s superintendent Tim Taylor resigned, Connelly said.

The work-release program with the Berea Street Department has been terminated, and the city will implement a whistleblower policy, Connelly said.

“Employees felt intimidated and did not want to come forward with information on what was apparently going on down there,” Gilbert said at the council meeting.

Sarah Hogsed can be reached at shogsed@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

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