• Donald V. Watkins

The Miracle at USP Atlanta

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on January 31, 2021


By the time I left FCI Talladega on November 23, 2020, four facts had been clearly established. One, Warden Cheron Y. Nash and Talladega Camp Unit Manager Destiney Lassiter/Brooks knew I was the confidential “whistleblower” who reported a cesspool of public corruption and a lucrative contraband trafficking ring that operated from the warden’s office and the prison’s SIS Unit to the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Two, Nash and Lassiter/Brooks, along with other BOP employees, were directly implicated in the OIG Complaint. Three, Talladega prison officials viewed me as a “POW” and “Dead man walking” and said so. Four, Nash and Lassiter/Brooks had the means, manner, insider connections, and motivation to place me in harms way, which they repeatedly did at Talladega. To their dismay, I survived each of their attempts to eliminate me during the pendency of my OIG complaint.


After spending six months in Talladega’s Maximum Security Special Housing Unit (SHU), a/k/a the “Hole”, Nash and Lassiter/Brooks placed me in transit to the FCI at La Tuna, which is located at the extreme western side of Texas. They used a “management variable” request to transfer me to this higher security prison under the false pretense that I represented a severe threat to the safety and operations of the prison. In reality, I posed a threat to the ongoing public corruption and contraband trafficking ring at FCI Talladega.


“Parked” Again


The Nash/Lassiter nee Brooks duo, aided and abetted by their insider connections at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Atlanta Regional and Washington, D.C. Central Offices, made sure I was “dragged” on the long route to La Tuna instead of the most direct route which had been afforded to recent transfers from Talladega. They scheduled my transfer during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and at a time when the CDC was advising Americans against Thanksgiving holiday travel. They knew that the BOP’s Health Services Department had already determined that I suffered from underlying health conditions that placed me in the CDC’s highest at-risk group for a fatal outcome from COVID-19. They also knew that the likelihood of a 72-year-old African-American male with health conditions had an almost zero chance of surviving a COVID-19 infection.


Yet, I was taken on a flthy bus to USP Atlanta along with 16 other Talladega inmates. Upon arrival, I was “parked” in the prison’s “Holdover Unit” for more than two months. Like Talladega’s SHU, I was locked down in my cell for 24 hours per day, seven days a week. I was only allowed out of my cell for 30 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to shower, check email, and/or use the phone.


Unbeknowst to me, Cheron Nash had been advising and assisting the Acting Warden at USP Atlanta in the discharge of his duties. Nash’s cohorts at USP Atlanta made sure I was placed in the custody and care of inmate Orderlies who roamed the Holdover Unit freely. These Orderlies literally ran the Unit and had access to every inmate.


One of these Orderlies was convicted in 2018 on multiple counts of murder. He and other Unit Orderlies are awaiting trial on federal racketeering charges that include murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion, drug dealing, witness tampering, retaliation against witnesses, and obstruction of justice – criminal activity that the DOJ says was orchestrated from their prison cells. Each one had denied these charges.


The Birth of a Miracle


This is when the Miracle at USP Atlanta occurred. Nash and Lassiter/Brooks orchestrated my placement at the Atlanta penitentiary with the expectation that their “whistleblower” problem would be eliminated by willing surrogates in the inmate population. Having failed at causing my demise through direct exposure to black mold, lead poisoning in the water supply, and COVID-19 while I was housed in Talladega’s SHU, both women arranged my transfer to La Tuna in hopes that I would never make it out of USP Atlanta alive.


After I arrived at USP Atlanta, word quickly spread with the inmate population that I was a lawyer, investigative journalist and political prisoner. Some had even seen the May 2020 Netflix documentary that featured my successful defense of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, who won dismissal and/or acquittal on all 85 felony charges in a $2.7 billion accounting fraud case.


Suddenly, the people who were expected to cause me great bodily harm and/or death were seeking my counsel. They shared their true stories with me which I reported to the outside world. For the first time in their lives, somebody actually cared about their experience in the criminal justice system.


In the span of days, I went from Nash’s intended “prey” in the “Lion’s Den” to a protected “Statesman” who freely counseled and comforted men who never had a fair shot at justice. They came from all walks of life and all races. Blacks and Hispanics openly united in their plea for help and quest for the fair administration of justice. It was truly an amazing experience.


Once again, I survived as a “whistleblower” who reported criminal activity by “dirty” law enforcement officers.


Moving Forward


I have placed the BOP and OIG on public notice to preserve approximately 30 categories of BOP records from which the racketeering activities at FCI Talladega can be proven. I am in the process of submitting this evidence and much more to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in Washington in connection with my efforts to secure new protections from Congress for DOJ/OIG “whistleblowers”.


For reasons that have never been explained to me, no investigator from the BOP or DOJ has asked me a single question about the cesspool of public corruption and contraband trafficking ring at FCI Talladega. It will be interesting to see if the Joe Biden administration’s stance on OIG “whistleblower” complaints is the same as Donald Trump’s “see no evil, hear no evil” approach.



PHOTO: USP Atlanta

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