Monday, January 22, 2018
Public safety

Pinellas sheriff orders review of jail after inmate's killing

An investigation of the killing of an inmate at the Pinellas County jail will include a review of all procedures inside the facility, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday.

The review comes after inmate Scott Greenberg, 28, is accused of killing cellmate Kelly Harding, 48, by asphyxiating him with wet toilet paper Sunday.

Preliminary details from the investigation revealed that Harding, who was serving a misdemeanor trespassing sentence, should never have occupied the same cell with Greenberg, charged with second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend.

Inmates charged with felonies are housed separately from those charged with misdemeanors.

Investigators will review several procedures, including bookings, inmate classification and court appearance processes, the Sheriff's Office said.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Wednesday that investigators are focusing on Harding's case to uncover weaknesses that may exist in jail procedures. So far, he said, it appears to be a procedural error, not an employee's.

But if jail staff is at fault, he added, "they will be held accountable for it."

"We want to make sure that this misclassification of inmates does not happen again," he said.

Harding was arrested in October on a burglary charge, a felony. But in January he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of trespassing, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to serve one year at the jail.

After the sentencing, Harding was supposed to be relocated to live with other misdemeanor inmates. But his case number was not updated to reflect his change in status, Gualtieri said earlier this week. And days later, when the jail received the sentencing documents, Harding's status still wasn't updated.

Because of behavioral problems, he spent most of his time at the jail in a single cell until Saturday, when he was moved to the Delta 6 pod, used to house felony inmates under protective custody. That's where he met Greenberg, who had just been discharged from the jail clinic. Greenberg settled into an empty bunk in Harding's cell around 10 p.m. Saturday. About three hours later, he killed Harding, the Sheriff's Office said.

Investigators are scheduled to hand in a report to the sheriff within 45 days, Gualtieri said. He will then review it and announce its findings. He said the investigation could result in additional jail staffing or paperwork.

The review comes just days after another inmate attack earlier this month. Thomas Morrow, 59, in custody under the state Marchman Act, was beaten July 6 by Leonard David Lanni Jr., 37, inside a transport van headed to the jail, authorities said. Lanni had been arrested on a disorderly conduct charge.

That investigation is expected to be completed within 30 days, Gualtieri said.

Times staff writer Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157.

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