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Monday, July 14, 2008

Jail guard may have conspired to help alleged cop-killer Lee Woods escape

The New York Daily News by XANA O'NEILL AND ALISON GENDAR - July 12th 2008

A city jail guard may have betrayed his badge to help an accused cop-killer, slipping the ex-con a handcuff key in a foiled escape plot, sources told the Daily News. The unidentified Rikers Island officer is under investigation for conspiring with Lee Woods, one of three men charged with killing Brooklyn police officer Russel Timoshenko, the sources said. The murder suspect swallowed the key - believed to have come from the correction officer - but never had a chance to use it. A jailhouse metal detector picked up the key in his digestive system on June 25, the day authorities blocked Woods from a scheduled Brooklyn court appearance, sources said. "For a man this manipulative and violent to have a handcuff key is a pretty shocking betrayal," said one law enforcement source. Two rookie correction officers - Auguste Durand, 31, and Michael Santiago, 24 - were fired the same day on charges of delivering marijuana, rolling papers, cigarettes and an occasional swig of booze to Woods, correction officials confirmed. A third officer is under investigation for sneaking Woods the handcuff key, as well as a Sim card - a portable memory chip for a cell phone, sources said. "Woods is on trial for killing a cop, but he has all the comforts of home," a disgusted police source said. "Shameful."

Woods missed his June 25 court date over fears he possessed potentially dangerous contraband, Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello said. Morello declined to identify the contraband, although officials thought Woods had swallowed it. The spokesman did not say if the contraband was recovered. For several days, Woods' hands were wrapped so he would have trouble retrieving any contraband excreted from his body. Woods, and his lawyer, claimed he was framed. "It was a setup," Woods told The News in a jailhouse interview conducted before The News learned of the handcuff key. "Auguste [Durand] put drugs into the window sill. Santiago had nothing to do with it. Why would they want to help me?" The fired guards could not be reached for comment Friday, but Santiago has denied giving Woods any contraband. Woods said he was beaten unconscious by Rikers guards after the two correction officers were fired. He is searched three times a day - at the beginning of each tour - and was stripped of his belongings. "I don't have a thing in my room - not even a book," he said. "They took away my Koran."

Morello said there was no evidence Woods was beaten, and said he was not aware that Woods or his lawyer filed any formal complaints alleging abuse. "We treat each of our inmates as we'd want our children to be treated," Morello said. "To the best of our knowledge he's been treated in accordance with our policy." Woods claimed he was only the getaway driver on July 9, 2007, when Timoshenko and Officer Herman Yan pulled over a $50,000 stolen BMW carrying the three men. Woods claimed his passengers - Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis - shot Yan and killed Timoshenko. Woods claimed he didn't even know there were guns in the vehicle, but he is still known as a "f---ing cop killer" to most Rikers guards, he said. Woods' record behind bars reveals a love of violence, officials said. He accrued more than five years worth of punitive time for more that 70 infractions at Rikers, including 14 assaults on staff, three arson attempts and several contraband violations. Woods was caught with a homemade weapon - a razor blade taped to the end of a pen - in a state prison in 2000. He racked up 26 violations during nearly five years in state prison before his 2004 release. Woods was accused of everything from throwing feces to attacking staff to fashioning homemade weapons. "He's violent and vengeful," a police source said. "There is no mystery here." (With Scott Shifrel)

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