FDLE: Inmates conspired to shoot themselves in scheme to sue prison system
LAKE CITY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has charged seven people based upon a scheme by two inmates to sue the Florida Department of Corrections after self-inflicting gunshot wounds. Five are in custody and two are at-large.
FDLE began its investigation in March after two inmates were shot with a .25 caliber Beretta semi-automatic pistol inside Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City. Inmates Kirk Cartwright, 33, and Deshandre Billups, 26, told investigators they were shot by an unknown person while praying inside their cell. However, investigators found that the inmates conspired to bring a gun into the prison through the mail, and shoot themselves with the intent of suing the prison system.
Cartwright and Billups are accused of smuggling contraband items into the prison without detection of staff. Investigators said the pair routinely smuggled in cellphones and drugs which they sold to other inmates or kept for themselves. According to FDLE, Family members and friends of the two inmates, along with inmate Tony Underwood, 21, helped in the scheme.
Investigators said both Cartwright and Billups conspired to bring a gun inside the prison, intentionally shoot himself and then sue Department of Corrections and seek to have his sentence reduced. Cartwright is currently serving a life sentence for murder. Billups is serving a 20-year prison term for robbery with a deadly weapon and armed burglary.
Both inmates are charged with possession of a firearm inside a correctional facility, introduction of contraband into a correctional facility- unauthorized written communications, possession of contraband in a correctional facility, possession of a firearm by convicted felon, and possession of ammunition by convicted felon. Additionally, Billups is charged with possession of contraband-currency and Cartwright is charged with introduction of contraband-controlled substances.
Investigators said Underwood assisted in the distribution of contraband. He is serving a six-year prison sentence for burglary and grand theft.
Cartwright’s girlfriend, Katherine Landrum, 28, and Billups' mother, Joanne Billups, 46, were arrested on Tuesday on charges stemming from the investigation.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Cartwright's sister, Monique Thompson, 35, and Underwood's girlfriend, Ekecia Anderson, 21. The two women remain at-large.