James Metellus, 20, a prisoner from off-Island with a lengthy and violent criminal record and currently serving a sentence in the Dukes County House of Correction for a vicious attack on another inmate last August, returned to court Monday to face charges for another assault, this time on a prisoner twice his age.
Mr. Metellus is accused of attacking inmate Stephen Doyle on June 13 after the 54-year-old Edgartown man took finished laundry belonging to Mr. Metellus out of a laundry machine and placed it on top so he could use it. Mr. Metellus took offense and lured Mr. Doyle to another area of the jail, and punched him in the face, Sheriff Michael McCormack told The Times.
Mr. Doyle was in jail for violation of an abuse prevention order and was awaiting disposition of the case. He was released on June 18.
The court entered a not-guilty plea for Mr. Metellus on a single charge of assault and battery, at his arraignment Monday in Edgartown District Court.
Assistant district attorney Laura Marshard argued forcefully to set bail at $5,000. Although Mr. Metellus has at least two years remaining on his sentence for the first jail assault, Ms. Marshard noted that the case might take some time to bring to trial.
“There’s a possibility this case could take two years to try,” Ms. Marshard said. “Asking for bail is the prudent and cautious thing for the Commonwealth to do.”
Associate Justice Joseph I. Macy set bail at $1,000.
Ms. Marshard also asked Judge Macy to impose an order requiring that Mr. Metellus have no contact with Mr. Doyle. The judge denied that request.
“The purpose of bail is to make sure he shows up for court,” Judge Macy said. “How am I going to tell him to stay away from another prisoner? I think the Commonwealth is right, but I just don’t think it’s practical.”
Judge Macy, however, warned Mr. Metellus to stay out of trouble while awaiting his next court appearance. “Keep your hands to yourself,” Judge Macy said, speaking directly to Mr. Metellus as he stood shackled hand and foot in the prisoner’s dock.
Following the court session, Mr. Metellus was returned to the Edgartown house of correction, where he remains segregated from the general population, confined in a separate cell for 23 hours each day, according to Sheriff McCormack. Mr. Metellus is due back in court on July 12 for a pre-trial hearing.
Record of assaults
On April 28, Mr. Metellus was sentenced to 2.5 years in the Dukes County House of Correction, after he was found guilty in Dukes County Superior Court of assault and battery, for a dispute that began over a candy bar last August.
Mr. Metellus smashed inmate Greg Gerathy of Vineyard Haven into a urinal causing extensive injuries to Mr. Gerathy’s face.
Mr. Metellus has a record of arrests, convictions, and parole violations for violent crimes in Boston, Lowell, on Penikese Island where he was a student at a school for troubled boys, and on the Vineyard.
He arrived on the Vineyard following his arrest on Penikese Island on charges of assaulting two counselors. At the time of the first jail assault, he was serving concurrent sentences for three separate crimes.
“Your record is awful, just awful,” Judge Tina S. Page told Mr. Metellus, just before she sentenced him in April. She warned him that if he were arrested again, he would face a state prison sentence, instead of time in a county jail.
“If you come back in Superior Court again, it’s very doubtful you’ll be going back to anyone’s house of correction,” the judge said.
Following the incident last August, Sheriff McCormack separated Mr. Metellus from the general population in an area of the jail where there are three maximum security cells.
“We kept him segregated for an extended period of time,” Mr. McCormack said. “We’re sending the message that this is what happens. He was allowed to slowly integrate back into the general population. He was incident-free for a while. He’s been separated out again. He seems to get along with people fine, then he just snaps.”
Most of the inmates at the Dukes County House of Correction are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, according to Sheriff McCormack. The sheriff can request that an inmate be transferred to another county house of correction where there may be more appropriate facilities for a dangerous inmate.
“Other facilities have better segregation units,” Mr. McCormack said. “If it happened that I needed to transfer him, I could do that.” Mr. McCormack said the sheriff in charge of a facility where the inmate is transferred has the final decision about whether to accept the inmate. He said Mr. Metellus belongs in the state prison system, not a house of correction.
“In the first incident, I requested a state prison sentence,” Mr. McCormack said. Assistant district attorney Marshard also argued for incarceration in a state prison during her sentencing recommendation.
“The first incident was such a violent incident, he needed to be in a state facility,” Sheriff McCormack said. “This time I will ask for a state sentence again. This person is a violent person and should not be in a house of correction. I’m going to see what happens this time around, if he gets a state sentence or not. We’ll see if the court will send him to a state facility, and if they don’t we’ll take the appropriate action.”
Asked why he didn’t request a transfer for Mr. Metellus after his conviction in April, Mr. McCormack said, “We do have a duty for care, custody, and control. The court made the decision. We live by those decisions, we don’t second-guess them. We carry out whatever the sentence is.”