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Criminal Justice

Inmate’s mom, 6 others charged in claimed plot to shoot prisoners to win damages and early release

Posted Jun 18, 2014 11:10 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Seven people, including the mother of an inmate, have been criminally charged in a claimed plot to shoot two Florida prisoners in which the inmates themselves also allegedly participated.

The two wounded inmates said they were shot March 22 by an unknown person as they were praying in a cell. However, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement now says they intentionally shot themselves with a smuggled gun, in order to win damages by suing the state corrections department and gain early release for at least one of the shot inmates, according to Bay News 9.

A Tampa lawyer who visited the two inmates at Columbia Correctional Institution after they were shot said he was stunned by news of authorities' allegations against Joanne Billups, 46, her son Deshandre Billups, 26, and fellow inmate Kirk Cartwright, 33. Another inmate, two friends and a sister of one of the prisoners also face charges.

"The suggestion seems to be that it was done for purposes of monetary gain,” Grady Irvin, Jr. told the station. “So go find me one case in the United States where this has ever happened before and if you find that case, let me know about it. Otherwise, it's a shock to the conscience.”

News reports differ concerning the exact charges against Joanne Billups and whether she is being held on no bond or $100,000 bond. However, much or all of the case against her appears to be focused on cellphone communications with her son.

The Tampa Tribune and WJXT report that Deshandre Billups and Cartwright face weapons and contraband charges related both to a .25 caliber Beretta semi-automatic pistol and cellphones that authorities say were also smuggled into the prison.

A FDLE press release provides further details and says the gun was mailed to the prison.

Cartwright is currently sentenced to life for murder and Billups is serving 20 years for armed robbery and burglary.

Another inmate, Tony Underwood, 21, who is serving a six-year term for grand theft and burglary, also faces a contraband case concerning the claimed prison-shooting plot.

Criminal cases against Underwood's girlfriend and a sister of Cartwright focus on cellphone use: Ekecia Anderson, 21, and Monique Thompson, 35, are charged with unauthorized written communication with inmates concerning text messages, reports WJXT.

Cartwright's girlfriend, Katherine Landrum, 28, is charged with introduction of contraband into a correctional facility concerning both cellphones and text messages.

The news articles don't include any comment from the defendants or their defense counsel.

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