Inmate pleads no contest to slashing warden

An inmate who claimed he slashed a deputy warden in face at the Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution two years ago because he was in imminent danger of being attacked by gang members pleaded no contest this morning in New London Superior Court.

Kenyon Joseph, 38, who is serving a 56-year sentence for felony murder, agreed to plead “nolo contendere” to assault on a public safety officer and was sentenced to an additional two years in prison. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein ordered that Joseph undergo a mental health evaluation, which will be done by an outside vendor.

Joseph also reserves the right to appeal Judge John M. Newson’s ruling that he could not use the so-called “defense of necessity” at trial. Newson heard arguments from prosecutor Thomas DeLillo and defense attorney Theodore Koch earlier this month in the midst of jury selection.

Defense attorney Theodore Koch said Joseph suffers from serious mental issues and was in a “dissociated rage” when he targeted Warden Scott Erge with a shank fashioned from a sharpened toothbrush on Sept. 10, 2012. Deputy Warden Stephen Bates intervened and was slashed in the face.

Joseph claims he went after the warden because he had previously been attacked by two gang members at Corrigan. He said the department had not acted on his requests to transfer out of the prison and he knew he would be sent to the Northern Correctional Institution, the state’s highest security prison, if he assaulted a staff member, according to Koch. He was, in fact, transferred after the attack and remains at Northern.

Judge Newson denied Koch’s motion to use the defense of necessity, or “choice of evils” defense, saying the Joseph had not met the three-pronged burden of showing there was no legal alternative available, that the harm to be prevented was imminent and that a direct causal relationship exists between his action and the avoidance of harm.

DeLillo said the Deputy Warden Gates, who suffered a facial puncture and abrasion in the attack, is satisfied with the outcome of the case.

Joseph, of New Britain, was sentenced  to 56 years in 2005 for his involvement in a 2001 shooting in Meriden that claimed the life of a 22-year-old man.

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