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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sheriff's deputy caught using inmate work crew for private business


A 10 On Your Side investigation gets immediate results when a Portsmouth Sheriff's deputy is caught using an inmate work crew for private business.

Chopper 10 shows it all. In our video tape, you see a group of Portsmouth jail inmates - a work release crew. We see them all over. But it's not that they're doing, it's where - a private home -and its all under the direction of a sheriff's deputy.

We saw the Portsmouth jail inmates where they were supposed to be - at the National Guard Armory in Portsmouth. They regularly work there as part of the inmate work release program.

But a short time earlier they were far from the armory. In fact they weren't even in Portsmouth. Instead they were in a leafy suburb in the Great Bridge section of Chesapeake.

Sheriff Bill Watson was even more surprised to learn when this was going on when he visited our studio to view the video tape we'd shot.

Les Smith: "That's yesterday".

Sheriff Watson: "That's yesterday?!"

Les Smith: "Yes"

Sheriff Watson: "Who is that guy there. Is he an inmate?"

Les Smith: "These are the four guys travelling with him (the deputy)."

Lt. Ashberry: "Yeah, he is, he's one"

The sheriff may have been surprised, but we weren't. A WAVY viewer tipped us off that it was happening. That's how we knew to be there at just the right time.

We observed the deputy in charge of the work crew - Mathew Ejma. He is a former full time deputy now on the auxillary force. The sheriff says they perform the same duties.

Sheriff Watson: "You can't tell an auxillary from a full time deputy. It's just that one is paid and one is not"

Three WAVY News 10 employees witnessed the four inmates working in the Chesapeake yard and the whole time we were there, Deputy Ejma was in the house, not in the yard with the inmates.

In fact at one point you see on our video tape an inmate simply reach into the cab of Deputy Ejma's truck to retrieve something.

Chopper 10 followed the crew from Chesapeake back to the armory.

Les Smith: "What about this - transporting inmates in your private vehicle?"

Sheriff Watson: "That's a violation of department policy. I mean, he's done. No doubt about it. There is nothing he can tell me. He's done."

The sheriff wasted no time: making the call in less than two minutes.

Sheriff Watson: "You wanna get the list out and call Deputy Ejma. I think it's e-j-m-a. Have him report to my office this afternoon and bring his badge, his I.D. Card and his gun with him. He's done."


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