The Times-Picayune by Laura Maggi - November 28, 2011
A deputy who worked at the Orleans Parish jail was arrested Saturday and booked with several counts of smuggling cell phones into the facility where he worked. An Orleans Parish deputy has been charged with smuggling cell phones to prisoners. Other deputies with the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office discovered a cell phone in a jacket belonging to Michael Conerly, 24, according to a brief police report written by Deputy Ernest Newman. The jacket had been left by Conerly at the control office of the House of Detention, one of the jail's facilities. A supervisor, Sgt. Nicole Harris, told Newman that she confiscated the jacket from Conerly after he arrived for his shift because it did not conform to departmental regulations. When later questioned about the cell phone and charger found in his jacket pocket, Conerly confessed that the phone was for an inmate. Conerly also told Newman that he had smuggled phones into the jail twice before, according to the report, which was posted on the website of The Lens. Conerly told investigators that the smuggled cell phone that they discovered Saturday was intended for inmate Larenzo "Woodie" Peters, according to the report. But the Sheriff's Office later clarified that the inmate was Alonzo Peters, 21, who records show is jailed on a charge of heroin possession with intent to distribute. The report by the Sheriff's Office did not name the other two inmates to whom Conerly allegedly provided phones in the past.The Sheriff's Office booked Conerly with three counts of malfeasance in office and three counts of contraband possession at a correctional institution. He bonded out of jail early Monday morning. The incident comes amid questions about the security of the jail -- in particular, about the ability of some inmates to communicate with the outside world. Last month, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said that high-profile inmate Telly Hankton was moved out of the Orleans Parish jail in late 2010 because of the FBI's concerns that he was too easily able to get messages to people outside the jail while awaiting trial on a murder charge. The move came shortly after John Matthews, who was preparing to give eyewitness testimony in Hankton's murder trial, was shot at his eastern New Orleans home -- allegedly by a cousin of Hankton's. At the time, a spokesman for Sheriff Marlin Gusman called Cannizzaro's claim "irresponsible" and said the DA had never reported a concern that Hankton was getting messages to the outside. In a statement released on Monday, Sheriff's Office spokesman Marc Ehrhardt said the office has a "zero-tolerance policy" about guards engaging in illegal conduct, adding that the agency searches for contraband on a daily basis. "This individual was arrested because OPSO deputies were vigilant in their duties and followed standard procedures to stop this illegal activity," Ehrhardt said in the statement. The office declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation. Laura Maggi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3316.