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California and the West

Corcoran Inmate Tells Jury Guards Set Up Rape

October 19, 1999|MARK ARAX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HANFORD — An inmate enforcer known at Corcoran State Prison as the "Booty Bandit" testified Monday that his rape of an inmate troublemaker was set up by correctional officers, some of whom laughed at the victim's pleas that his life was in danger.

Wayne Robertson, the 6-foot, 2-inch, 220-pound rapist, manacled and glowering, told the Superior Court here that inmate Eddie Dillard, a prisoner half his size, should have never been put in his cell to endure two days of sexual assault in March 1993.

"Dillard was my [documented] enemy. He shouldn't have been placed in my cell--period," Robertson told the jury. "The officers said, 'He needs to learn how to do his time.' They knew Eddie Dillard was my enemy. And they knew who I was. They put Dillard in [my cell] for something to happen to him."

The riveting testimony from a notorious predator came in the fourth week of the Kings County trial of four officers accused of aiding and abetting Dillard's rape. The defendants, Sgts. Robert Decker, 41, and Anthony Sylva, 36, and Officers Joe Sanchez, 38, and Dale Brakebill, 34, face one to nine years in prison if found guilty.

Robertson's reputation had preceded him into the courtroom. Vilified as one of Corcoran's most violent inmates, Robertson, 42, is a convicted murderer with a long history of sexual assaults, a prison enforcer who received special favors from guards. He has raped and beaten at least a dozen cellmates during 20 years of incarceration, many of the victims small and young-looking like Dillard, according to prison documents introduced at the trial.

Robertson's prison nicknames capture his menace. In addition to being known as the Booty Bandit, he is also called Smiley, the moniker he favors because "there's a smile on my face, but beware of the evil that lurk within."

Days before Robertson's testimony Monday, the state's lead prosecutor, Deputy Atty. Gen. Vernon Pierson, had put the seven-man, five-woman jury on alert.

"His testimony will be an experience you will not soon forget," Pierson said, describing Robertson as "perhaps the most evil person you will ever find yourself in the room with. But even someone that evil can tell you the truth."

The officers' main defense is that they didn't know Robertson had a well-documented history of sexual assault and they had no motive to harm Dillard when they placed him in Robertson's cell in the Security Housing Unit of the San Joaquin Valley prison.

In three hours of testimony, Robertson countered the defense's assertion that sloppy record-keeping--and not malice--led to Dillard being placed in the cell with him. Chained to the witness stand, his head shaved except for a tiny, braided ponytail, Robertson said three of the accused guards knew his predatory background well. As an inmate leader and "shot-caller," Robertson said he had a friendly relationship with Decker that dated to 1989.

Robertson testified that it was Brakebill who informed him Dillard was now at Corcoran. Brakebill told Robertson that he had to move from his cellblock because one of his documented enemies was about to enter, Robertson testified. "When we were walking, I asked Brakebill why was I being moved, and he said, 'You've got an enemy in here . . . Dillard. He needs to learn how to do his time.' "

Robertson testified that a few weeks later, in March 1993, he told Decker he wanted to be housed with inmates from Southern California, his home turf. "I told him, 'I prefer one of my own homeboys. I'm a Blood, a Piru, and is it possible to have one of them?' When I mentioned Dillard, he said, 'Yeah, he needs to learn how to do his time.' "

Two days later, Robertson testified, he was lying on his bed watching TV when his cell door opened and an agitated Dillard came in. As soon as the cell door shut, Robertson said, Dillard began complaining to the officers: "I'm not supposed to be in here."

Dillard told Sanchez and another guard, Roscoe Pondexter, that his life was in danger, Robertson said.

"[Sanchez] and Pondexter started laughing like it was some type of joke, and they walked away," Robertson testified.

The next evening, Robertson said, he and Dillard got into a fight because Dillard had bad-mouthed the Piru gang. Robertson said he kicked the smaller inmate in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him. "I told him I'd break his neck. He banged on the door and hollered for staff, and nobody came."

What happened next? Pierson asked.

"I sexually assaulted him," Robertson testified.

Sodomized him?

"Yes."

How long?

"All night," Robertson said.

Cross-examining Robertson on Monday, defense attorneys attacked his credibility, painting him as a murderer and a liar. Robertson responded: "I'm not a pacifist; I believe in an eye for an eye. . . . But even if I'm a felon, I believe in telling the truth."

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