NATIONAL NEWS

Prosecutors: South Carolina prison supervisor took $219,000 in bribes; got 173 cellphones to inmates

Apr 12, 2024, 9:26 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A supervisor who managed security at a South Carolina prison accepted more than $219,000 in bribes over three years and got 173 contraband cellphones for inmates, according to federal prosecutors.

Christine Mary Livingston, 46, was indicted earlier this month on 15 charges including bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

Livingston worked for the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 16 years. She was promoted to captain at Broad River Correctional Institution in 2016, which put her in charge of security at the medium-security Columbia prison, investigators said.

Livingston worked with an inmate, 33-year-old Jerell Reaves, to accept bribes for cellphones and other contraband accessories. They would take $1,000 to $7,000 over the smart phone Cash App money transfer program for a phone, according to the federal indictment unsealed Thursday.

Reaves was known as Hell Rell and Livingston was known as Hell Rell’s Queen, federal prosecutors said.

Both face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and an order to pay back the money they earned illegally if convicted.

Reaves is serving a 15-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of a man at a Marion County convenience store in 2015.

Lawyers for Livingston and Reaves did not respond to emails Friday.

Contraband cellphones in South Carolina prisons have been a long-running problem. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said inmates have run drug rings, fraud schemes and have even ordered killings from behind bars.

A 2018 riot that killed seven inmates at Lee Correctional Intuition was fueled by cellphones.

“This woman broke the public trust in South Carolina, making our prisons less safe for inmates, staff and the community. We will absolutely not tolerate officers and employees bringing contraband into our prisons, and I’m glad she is being held accountable,” Stirling said in a statement.

The South Carolina prison system has implored federal officials to let them jam cellphone signals in prisons but haven’t gotten permission.

Recently, they have had success with a device that identifies all cellphones on prison grounds, allowing employees to request mobile phone carriers block the unauthorized numbers, although Stirling’s agency hasn’t been given enough money to expand it beyond a one-prison pilot program.

In January, Stirling posted a video from a frustrated inmate calling a tech support hotline when his phone no longer worked asking the worker “what can I do to get it turned back on?” and being told he needed to call a Corrections Department hotline.

From July 2022 to June 2023, state prison officials issued 2,179 violations for inmates possessing banned communication devices, and since 2015, more than 35,000 cellphones have been found. The prison system has about 16,000 inmates.

Stirling has pushed for the General Assembly to pass a bill specifying cellphones are illegal in prisons instead of being included in a broad category of contraband and allowing up to an extra year to be tacked on a sentence for having an illegal phone, with up to five years for a second offense.

That bill has not made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

National News

Associated Press

Lawsuit filed in the death of dancer with a peanut allergy who died after eating mislabeled cookie

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — The estate of a young dancer who died after eating a mislabeled cookie containing peanuts has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming the failure to properly label the package was grossly negligent. Órla Ruth Baxendale, 25, died Jan. 11 after eating a Florentine cookie sold by grocery retailer Stew Leonard’s and […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Lara Trump touts RNC changes and a 2024 presidential victory for Trump in North Carolina

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — To a room full of Republicans from across North Carolina on Friday, former President Donald Trump railed against the Biden administration and vowed to win in the state for a third time — all over a speaker phone call after his son Eric Trump dialed him on stage. “I just want […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Nevada voter ID initiative can appear on 2024 ballot with enough signatures, state high court says

ELKO, Nev. (AP) — An initiative that would amend the Nevada Constitution to require that voters show photo identification at the polls can appear on the 2024 ballot as long as organizers collect enough signatures, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday. Organizers must gather just over 100,000 valid signatures by June 26 for it to […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Florida priest accused of biting woman who grabbed Holy Communion wafers during Mass

ST. CLOUD, Fla. (AP) — The Diocese of Orlando is defending a Catholic priest accused of biting a woman who tried to grab Holy Communion wafers during Mass at a central Florida church. The confrontation occurred Sunday afternoon at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in St. Cloud. Police have forwarded a report to prosecutors accusing […]

13 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge rejects Alec Baldwin’s request to dismiss criminal charge in ‘Rust’ fatal shooting

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico judge has rejected a request by Alec Baldwin to dismiss the sole criminal charge against him in a fatal shooting on the set of “Rust,” keeping the case on track for a trial this summer. Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Friday upheld an indictment charging Baldwin with […]

14 hours ago

Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Preempted by coverage of the Monaco Grand Prix. ___ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — A panel of secretaries of state with Jocelyn Benson, D-Mich., Brad Raffensperger, R-Ga., Adrian Fontes, D-Ariz., and Al Schmidt, R-Pa. ___ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; […]

15 hours ago

Prosecutors: South Carolina prison supervisor took $219,000 in bribes; got 173 cellphones to inmates