Editorial: Getting smart - and honest - about crime in Louisiana_lowres

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in 2009.

A former assistant warden who worked in security at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola has been charged with abusing his position by helping facilitate the underground market for contraband, said West Feliciana District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla. 

Kevin Latroy Benjamin, 45, was charged last week with malfeasance in office, the second case in a widening multi-agency drug investigation, which includes the FBI and the Louisiana Department of Corrections, court records show. 

D'Aquilla said he listened to a recording taken by another former prison official in which Benjamin can be heard explaining when shakedowns or rounds would be made at the prison — information Benjamin provided to help the other official sneak drugs into the prison.

D'Aquilla said Benjamin's case is connected to the arrest earlier this month of another Angola sergeant, Keisarah McGee, 27, who resigned after a shakedown at the prison revealed she had six ounces of methamphetamine in her vehicle.

Benjamin retired from the corrections department on Dec. 5, the same day McGee was arrested. Benjamin had worked in the corrections department since July 1991, most recently as an assistant warden at Angola, where he worked in security, said Department of Corrections spokesman Ken Pastorick. 

Pastorick said Benjamin is a part of an ongoing investigation. The corrections department remains a part of the investigation, Pastorick said, along with the FBI and other agencies he declined to name.

"With an ongoing investigation, we are not at liberty to discuss details," Pastorick said. "The details will come out eventually."

D'Aquilla also said he expects more people will be added to this criminal investigation, and noted that more charges could still come against Benjamin. 

However, in an odd set of circumstances, Benjamin has not yet been arrested or booked into jail, despite being formally charged. Typically in state criminal court, someone is arrested after an investigating agency finds probable cause that a law has been violated. Then, a prosecutor can review the case and decide to bring charges.

Charges can be brought without a preceding arrest; but after a charge is filed, the defendant will then typically be booked into jail.  

In this case, D'Aquilla charged Benjamin before any arrest was made. D'Aquilla admitted that filing the bill of information could have been premature in the larger investigation, but said it was an "obviously a malfeasance charge." 

"I just wanted to make sure something was in the system," D'Aquilla said.

West Feliciana Sheriff Austin Daniel, whose office serves as the arresting agency for the parish where Angola is located, said he did not know of any plans to arrest Benjamin. He deferred all questions about the issue to D'Aquilla.  

"We didn't arrest him," Daniel said. "I don't know why (D'Aquilla) handled it that way. I thought it was a bit strange myself."

D'Aquilla said the investigation into Benjamin remains ongoing, and he could be arrested in the future.

However, the absence of arrest is not because Benjamin remains elusive to authorities. He showed up for his arraignment Thursday morning in the West Fecliciana Parish courthouse. That proceeding, however, was continued until August, according to court records. 


Follow Grace Toohey on Twitter, @grace_2e.