Concealed Prison ‘Knife’ Allegedly Found in Inmate Knee Brace – Judge Sets Trial after Preliminary

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By Ankita Joshi

SACRAMENTO, CA – Defendant John Armstrong was present in court Wednesday for a preliminary hearing for an alleged violation of a law that prohibits a person from possessing or manufacturing weapons within a penal institution.

Apparently, according to testimony here, a prison-made knife—also known as a “shiv” or “shank”—was found inside his knee brace.

Assistant Public Defender Ryan Jay contended Armstrong had no prior knowledge of the concealed weapon found in his knee brace because he was so calm at the time when he was searched.

The correctional officer who conducted the search of Armstrong was present in court to testify on the discovery of the weapon on Sept. 26, 2019.

The officer explained that, as inmates are released from their cells to be let out to the yard, they are subject to a search of their belongings with a special tower metal detector that sounded off when they were searching Armstrong.

They initially verbally asked Armstrong if he was in possession of any metal before asking him to remove his knee brace for further inspection.

After a lengthy inspection of the knee brace, a 4.5 inch piece of sharpened metal—the “shiv” or “shank”—was found within a small pocket of the knee brace.

During cross, PD Jay asked for more specifics of the search that Armstrong was placed under after the initial alert by the metal detector.

The officer said that since the searches are a standard procedure, Armstrong approached the table with his shirt, pants, and shoes in his hands, and complied with any direction given to him by the correctional officers.

The correctional officers did not find any contraband in any of Armstrong’s clothes, and only heard an alert from the metal detector when it was waved over the knee brace Armstrong was wearing at the time.

The correctional officer testified that the knee brace did not seem to have any metal in the initial inspection, and nothing on the outside of it indicated that there would be a weapon inside.

The knee brace was first inspected for several moments by the first correctional officer by using his fingers to try to find any abnormalities, none of which were found. The knee brace was then returned to Armstrong.

It was then that the second correctional officer asked to see the knee brace again and with further manipulation was able to find the alleged weapon within a small pocket in the knee brace.

Once the alleged weapon was found, Armstrong was asked to “submit to restraints,” and was strip-searched. No contraband was found on his body, or in his cell at a later inspection.

During this search, the officer testified Armstrong made no evasive movements, stayed in the presence of the correctional officers, and did not try to run away.

The correctional officer did note that Armstrong had a knee brace assigned to him, but did not know if Armstrong had loaned the knee brace to another inmate or had been in possession of it prior to the search.

PD Jay contended that the conviction of Armstrong required “some evidence be presented that the item [was] carried on his person or that he had knowledge that the item had been possessed,” none of which had been found.

Not only did Armstrong not make evasive movements, and had stayed in the presence of the correctional officers throughout the entire search, Armstrong’s fingerprints were not found on the weapon.

In response, Deputy District Attorney Deborah Glenn stated that Armstrong had been assigned his brace for a long period of time, and that “it is actually fairly common for small items to be hidden in various articles of clothing and shoes worn by inmates.”

On the basis of these arguments, Judge Wood found Armstrong likely guilty, and scheduled a trial date for October.

Ankita Joshi is a second-year student at the University of San Francisco, pursuing a major in International Studies and a minor in Political Science. She is originally from Sacramento, CA.


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