A former deputy who smuggled cellphones to inmates at Orleans Parish Prison and took thousands of dollars in bribes has been sentenced to more than two years behind bars.
Terry W. Savage, 57, pleaded guilty recently to one count of malfeasance in office, a felony, and was sentenced to 30 months in state custody, according to court records.
The guilty plea occurred in December but has not previously been reported.
Savage, who resigned from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office about two years ago, admitted receiving regular bribes of $400 to supply cellphones to inmates awaiting trial at the jail’s now-shuttered Conchetta facility on Tulane Avenue. He typically would meet the girlfriend of an inmate at a gas station to collect the contraband.
Prosecutors did not charge Savage until last year, even though he confessed in early 2014. Sheriff’s Office records show investigators discovered the stash of cellphones after an inmate posted a photograph on the social-networking website Instagram.
Deputies seized several of the devices on at least three jail tiers, including one phone that had been hidden in a white sock shoved between two bunks. One of the phones contained Savage’s phone number and text messages instructing an unidentified recipient to contact the deputy to arrange a meeting.
Confronted by his colleagues, Savage initially claimed he had given his number to an inmate so they might go fishing upon his release from custody. He later admitted to smuggling cellphones to inmates “over 10 times,” Sheriff’s Office reports show.
The reports, released in response to a public records request, show investigators knew about Savage’s role in trafficking contraband as early as August 2013. However, he worked at the facility for another six months before he was suspended in February 2014.
Cellphones generally are considered one of the most dangerous forms of contraband in a jail because they allow inmates to circumvent the recorded jailhouse telephone system and place calls that could affect pending cases.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman opened a new $150 million jail in September that is equipped with body-scanning devices intended to prevent inmates and deputies from smuggling in illegal items like drugs and cellphones. However, the amount of contraband flowing into the building appears to be undiminished and even increasing, according to statistics tracked by a court-appointed expert overseeing a series of reforms at the jail.
The expert, Susan McCampbell, said last week that deputies counted at least 23 incidents involving contraband at the new jail between Sept. 15 and Dec. 31. That compares with 22 cases recorded at the old jail between Jan. 1 and July 31, 2015, McCampbell’s monitoring team said.
Savage, who was given credit for time served since his indictment last year, will be eligible for release on “good time” parole on June 25, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
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