BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Two Erie County Sheriff’s deputies have been fired after being arrested on charges of bringing illegal items into a jail.
Charles Hunt, 49, Eric Stevens, 33 were arraigned Sunday on felony charges. Both had disciplinary hearings Monday at the sheriff’s office, and as a result, they were fired.
Stevens and Hunt both served as guards at the Erie County Holding Center and sometimes the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden. Narcotics detectives say on Saturday at the Holding Center, they busted Hunt with a plastic bag in his pocket containing a cell phone, 33 grams of marijuana, and rolling papers.
That same day, they arrested Stevens for giving a cigarette lighter to an inmate.
“Lighters can be considered weapons,” said Chief John Greenan of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
Stevens gave investigators a lengthy confession, according to court documents. In it, Stevens allegedly admits buying the lighter for suspected cocaine dealer Wahabbi Halton, an inmate at the Holding Center.
Stevens said Halton asked him on three different occasions for a cigarette lighter. In July, Stevens stopped at a gas station on Niagara Street, bought a Bic lighter, then handed it to Halton at the jail. Stevens claims he received nothing in return.
Why did he do it? Stevens says he didn’t know what would happen if he said no. Stevens told investigators his wife also works at the Holding Center and he was worried the inmate might try to harm her if he didn’t give him the lighter.
Both Stevens and Hunt have now been fired. Stevens spent seven-and-a-half years as a jail deputy. Hunt was a county employee for 20 years and spent the last year in the jail.
“We don’t believe it’s a systemic problem here. However from time to time you have a couple of bad apples. And that appears to be the case here,” Greenan said.
Hunt’s court filing didn’t include a confession. But Stevens apologized in his confession.
“Sorry. It was the dumbest mistake of my life. It ruined me and my family’s life. I apologize to everybody. I apologize to the Erie County Sheriff’s Office,” Stevens said.
When asked by investigators whether he knew about Hunt’s actions, Stevens claimed he didn’t. The sheriff’s office has said the investigation into both men was conducted separately, even though they were both arrested on the same day.
If convicted of possessing dangerous contraband, a felony, both men could face a maximum of four years behind bars. Hunt could face additional time for a charge of criminal possession of marijuana.
A preliminary hearing for Stevens and Hunt is scheduled for Friday, August 8 at 9:30 a.m.