Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of an inmate who died in a shower stall at the prison.
The GBI has arrested a Georgia warden on charges that he received cash payments as part of a widespread contraband operation at the prison he oversaw.
Brian Dennis Adams was fired Wednesday as the warden at Smith State Prison in Glennville after he was charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), making or writing false statements, violating his oath as a public officer and bribery. He was in the Tattnall County jail Wednesday but has since been released, according to online records.
Warrants for his arrest say that he received “U.S. currency” through “a pattern of racketeering activity” associated with the Yves Saint Laurent Squad, a smuggling ring operating inside the prison. The warrants, released Thursday, also say that Adams, 48, provided false statements to a GBI special agent in an April 2022 interview when he contended that he had not been solicited or bribed by an inmate during the previous 10 years.
Evidence of an extensive contraband smuggling ring based at the prison was discovered amid a GBI investigation of the January 2021 murder of 88-year-old Bobby Carlton Kicklighter in Glennville.
Kicklighter was killed at his home in what has been described as a hit intended for his neighbor, an officer at the prison who reportedly had stood up to contraband smuggling at the facility.
The GBI began looking into the alleged corruption in May 2022, a month after an inmate, Nathan Weekes, and three others were indicted in connection with Kicklighter’s slaying.
“That was actually a hit ordered on a correction officer who was a straight-up, righteous guard who couldn’t be bought, couldn’t be intimidated, couldn’t be threatened,” former GBI Director Vic Reynolds previously told Channel 2 Action News.
The central figure in the alleged murder and contraband smuggling plot is Weekes, 26, a Lithonia resident who entered the prison system in 2021 to serve a 17-year sentence for committing a string of armed robberies in DeKalb County.
The May 2022 indictment accuses him of directing an associate on the outside, Christopher Sumlin, who broke into Kicklighter’s house and shot the man to death. Sumlin was also an inmate at Smith until he was released on parole in October 2020.
According to the indictment, Weekes was known at Smith as “Kash” or “Da President” of the Yves Saint Laurent Squad, a multimillion dollar contraband ring operating inside the prison. The indictment described the ring as a criminal enterprise that worked to move cellphones, drugs, jewelry, designer clothing, cash and other prohibited items into the prison.
The indictment contends that Weekes used girlfriends and others on the outside to further his interests. He also bribed and intimidated corrections officers, the indictment says.
The indictment also said that members of the gang were involved in two other murders. One was the June 2021 murder of former correctional officer Jessica Gerling, who was arrested a year earlier for bringing contraband into the prison; the other was the January 2021 murder of Jerry Lee Davis, a truck driver who made frequent deliveries to the prison.
“There are still co-conspirators unknown to law enforcement and the grand jury at this time,” the indictment added.
An attorney for Weekes, Gerald Word, declined comment Thursday when asked about Adams’ alleged role in the case.
Adams had been with the Georgia Department of Corrections since 1997, starting as a correctional officer. He was named warden at Smith State Prison in 2019.
Smith State Prison, a close security facility that can house more than 1,500 inmates, has proven in recent years to be one of the state’s more problematic. Six inmates were murdered there in 2021, the most of any Georgia prison that year. It’s also the prison where an inmate, Christopher Heath, was found dead in a shower stall in December 2020, a death reported as a suicide that has since led to a lawsuit by his family.
In a statement, GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver said he was disheartened to learn of Adams’ alleged actions. But the department is committed to “maintaining a zero-tolerance policy for individuals who choose to ignore their oath and jeopardize our non-negotiable mission of public safety, (and that) applies to every level in the GDC,” Oliver said.
“It is extremely important to note, however, that Adams’ actions do not reflect the hundreds of officers, wardens and other staff who are committed each and every day to ensuring the safety of the public and the safe operations of our facilities,” he added.
Multiple wardens in other states have recently been fired and arrested on charges ranging from giving an inmate a phone to sexually abusing inmates, according to news reports.
In one case, a former warden of a federal women’s prison in California was convicted in December of molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked, the Associated Press reported. Also in December, a former assistant warden at the Stateville Correctional Center in Illinois was arrested on five felony charges of sex abuse. And in Nebraska, a former assistant warden was sentenced to a year in jail for providing a phone to an inmate who was serving a life sentence for murder, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.
Anyone with information on the Georgia case is asked to contact the GBI regional investigative office in Statesboro at 912-871-1121. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-597-TIPS(8477), online at https://gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online, or by downloading the See Something, Send Something mobile app.
Credit: Clayton County Police Department