NEWPORT CITY — One of the two inmates who held a corrections officer hostage for ransom in Northern State Correctional Facility three years ago faces up to 50 more years in prison.
Leroy Hughes, 35, an inmate now in Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Orleans Superior Court to kidnapping for ransom and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, both felonies, according to court records.
A misdemeanor charge of carrying a dangerous weapon was dismissed without prejudice.
Judge Robert Bent sentenced Hughes to 15 to 50 years with credit for time served. His earliest release date could be in 2031, according to online inmate records.
As a habitual offender, Hughes could have faced a penalty of up to life in prison on the charges, records show.
He has been convicted in the past of three felony charges of assault and robbery, grand larceny and first degree aggravated domestic assault, according to records.
The other inmate involved in the hostage-taking, Mehmed Devac, is in Northwest State Correctional Facility serving other sentences and awaiting trial.
On Aug. 11, 2016, Hughes and Devac, then 22, were accused of taking Department of Corrections employee Malcolm Brown, then 51, of Morgan, hostage while possessing a homemade three-inch-blade knife called a “shank,” according to an affidavit by Vermont State Police Detective Sergeant Darren Annis.
The hostage-taking ended after three hours without any injury to staff member or inmates, but caused the prison to be locked down into the evening, police said.
Annis said Hughes and Devac held Brown inside one of the rooms in the units in the prison. Hughes was armed with the shank, and they threatened to kill him if anyone tried to end the stand-off, police said.
The hostage situation began at 12:48 p.m., prompting law enforcement and rescue officials from across the region to respond to the Glen Road minimum to medium security state prison to support the prison staff.
The department activated its special response team, drawing “highly trained staff members from across the region” to negotiate with the hostage-takers.
Area law enforcement agencies handled outside security while the prison security handled inside.
After two hours of negotiating, the inmates released Brown unharmed and they were taken into custody without incident at 3:13 p.m., state police said.
The inmates asked to be allowed to smoke cigarettes in the cell and to be transferred out of the Newport prison, Annis said.
The superintendent of the prison agreed to those terms, the inmates got their lit cigarettes and they released the correction’s officer, Annis said.
Brown said that he went to talk to the inmates and to seize tattoo equipment because they had new tattoos that were not allowed while in prison, Annis said.
He told them prison authorities planned to search the cell for contraband, then Hughes attempted to tackle him, produced the shank, and shut the door, Annis said.
Brown said he wasn’t afraid at first but considered the threats of stabbing serious, Annis said.
Brown called Devac the mastermind of the plan, which did not target him specifically, Annis said. He suspected they grabbed him because he told them about the cell search, Annis said.
Brown said that at one point Hughes said they should let Brown go but Devac refused, Annis said.
After the hostage-taking was over, officers found another shank under a mattress, Annis said.
Devac told other corrections officers that the incident was “spur of the moment” because they were caught “red handed” with the tattoo equipment, Annis said.
Corrections officers also reported a dramatic escalation in Hughes’ behavior in the six months before the incident, Annis said.
Neither inmate wanted to speak to police, Annis said.
Devac is still awaiting trial in the hostage-taking case.
He was in the prison serving time for assault and robbery with injury, aggravated assault, and several other misdemeanor offenses, according to inmates’ records.
He had been incarcerated since Aug. 25, 2014.
He has a minimum release date of May 23, 2020, and a maximum release date of May 20, 2032.
Hughes was serving time for grand larceny and assault and robbery with a weapon before the incident. He has been incarcerated since June 8, 2015, and at NSCF since Feb. 9, 2016.