The 2011 report following the murder of South Dakota Correctional Officer Ron 'RJ' Johnson said that all policies and procedures were followed at the prison leading up to the escape attempt by two inmates. But new documents and depositions filed by attorneys for Johnson's estate in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Department of Corrections tell a different story.
When inmates Rodney Berget and Eric Robert killed Johnson as part of a failed prison break, they were classified as maximum security inmates but were not in the maximum security unit.
Berget and Robert have pleaded guilty to killing Johnson as part of a plot to break out of the prison in April of 2011. Robert has already been executed.
But the new documents that were filed by the attorneys of Johnson's wife, Lynette, as proposed facts reveal that even retired Warden Doug Weber admits policies were violated leading up to Johnson's murder despite Weber telling KELOLAND News before his retirement in June that procedures were followed.
"Neither one of those guys had institutional violence on their records. They were assigned appropriately; they were living in appropriate housing and all of the procedures were followed. It was just a terrible set of circumstances that happened that day," Weber said on June 6, 2013.
Those comments came just four months after Weber told attorneys a different story during a deposition. Court documents show that Weber told Johnson's attorneys in February that 'policies were violated.'
Weber went on to admit that after he met with Berget about the inmate's hunger strike in 2004, Berget was moved out of the maximum security Jameson Annex and ended his hunger strike. Berget was never permanently housed in the Jameson Annex again until Johnson's murder in 2011.
A similar set of circumstances surrounded the end of Robert's hunger strike in 2009. Robert was moved out of Jameson after a meeting with Weber and he never went back permanently despite an escape history and a disciplinary record.
Weber denies in his deposition that he ever made a deal with Robert and Berget but admits the proper documentation to move Berget out of the Jameson Annex was never filed.
An inmate even testified as part of the lawsuit that Berget and Robert were manipulating the system while they were in prison.
A DOC staff person said in her deposition that was filed last week that she even made copies of Berget and Robert's classification documents after Johnson's murder for fear that the documents would be changed. However, she shredded them later after admitting she overreacted.
The Department of Corrections and its attorney are working on filing a response to the facts that have been filed and proposed by the Johnson estate.
"Simply because one side states something as fact in a submission does not necessarily mean that it is true or must be accepted by the court," South Dakota Secretary of Corrections Denny Kaemingk said in a statement Monday afternoon.