Justin Santerre (age 38), of Fall River and Jeffrey Wilson (age 63), of Providence were found guilty on January 31, 2020 of attacking of a fellow inmate at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) in July 2017.
A Providence Superior Court Jury convicted Wilson of one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of weapons other than firearms while incarcerated, one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon, and one count of disorderly conduct. Santerre was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of disorderly conduct. Superior Court Associate Justice Joseph A. Montalbano scheduled a sentencing hearing for March 27, 2020.
"I commend the Rhode Island State Police and the Department of Corrections investigators for conducting a thorough and effective investigation in this case. The kind of behavior engaged in by the defendants here significantly endangers not only other inmates but also DOC staff, and warrants substantial investigative and prosecutorial effort," said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha.
During the trial, the State proved beyond reasonable doubt that on July 2, 2017, at approximately 9:58 a.m., inmate Salvatore Romano was brutally attacked in the Maximum Security recreation yard at the ACI by fellow inmates Justin Santerre, Jeffrey Wilson, and Brian Audette (who previously plead to his crimes associated with this attack and was sentenced in 2018). The defendants used a 10-inch metal rod with a sharpened end, as well as razor blades to commit the assault. They also punched the victim several times. Salvatore Romano was left with several significant lacerations to the head, face, back, and chest that required staples and sutures. He was treated at Rhode Island hospital.
Through witness statements, video surveillance, and photographs, investigators learned that on the morning of July 2, 2017, at approximately 7:45 a.m., Romano was released from segregation at the Maximum Security facility and allowed to return to his cell. He and another inmate, Richard Dupont, had both been placed in segregation due to a fight in previous weeks. Santerre, Wilson, and Audette were all friends with Dupont.
After being released from segregation, Romano went out to the recreation yard around 9:00 a.m., which is where the attack occurred. Video surveillance of the incident shows that the physical altercation lasted for approximately 20 seconds before correctional officers were able to arrive at the location and disperse the attackers.
In the video surveillance, Santerre is shown with his back to the camera, kneeling over the fallen Romano and brutally punching him in the face while Romano is on the ground. Wilson is shown using a long object to stab/poke Romano three times right before correctional officers arrive at the scene. Three weapons were recovered: one 10-inch metal rod sharpened at the end, one razor blade with a deodorant wrapper wrapped around it to serve as a handle; and one plain razor blade.
Rhode Island State Police led the investigation, aided by The Special Investigation Unit with the Department of Corrections. Special Assistant Attorney General Michael S. McCabe prosecuted the case on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General.