One of the inmates accused of shooting themselves in what authorities say was a scheme to sue the state in an effort to win an earlier release date from a northern Florida prison has a lengthy record in Hillsborough County.
His mother, who is from Tampa, was in jail on charges that she participated in the plot with at least four others, in addition to the inmates who allegedly shot themselves.
Joanne Billups, 46, was arrested Tuesday and booked into the Hillsborough County jail on 10 counts of introducing contraband into a correctional facility. She is accused of sending her son, Deshandre Billups, 26, at least 10 text messages on a contraband cellphone in the days leading up to the March 22 shootings, including one just hours before they happened.
The younger Billups was charged in the scheme with inmate Kirk Cartwright, 33, both of whom shot themselves with .25-caliber Beretta semiautomatic handgun inside the Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The two told investigators they were shot inside a cell while praying. But the FDLE says they actually shot themselves with the intent of suing the Florida Department of Corrections.
Investigators say the two conspired to smuggle cellphones and drugs into the prison for personal use or sales, and managed to get the gun sent by mail to the prison without detection. A third inmate is accused with assisting the plot, along with two girlfriends and a sister of the inmates.
Billups' mother was being held in Hillsborough on an out-of-county warrant on $100,000 bail. Her son is serving a 20-year sentence on charges of robbery with a deadly weapon, a gun, and armed burglary, according to the Department of Corrections.
His sentence stems from a January 2009 home-invasion robbery in Hillsborough County for which he initially faced charges of armed robbery, auto theft and possession of a firearm by a felon. He has a lengthy arrest record in Hillsborough for charges including auto theft, illegal weapons possession and escape from police custody.