Prosecutors seek death penalty for federal inmate charged with killing guard



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An inmate accused of using a homemade weapon to attack and kill a guard at a federal prison in northeastern Pennsylvania could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

Federal prosecutors said in a filing Thursday they will seek the death penalty against Jessie Con-ui, who is charged with first-degree murder in the February 2013 stabbing death of Eric Williams at the Canaan federal prison in Waymart.

The death penalty is justified because Con-ui has an extensive history of violence, including a 2002 murder conviction, and the attack on Williams was premeditated and targeted a federal public servant, U.S. Attorney Peter Smith said in the filing.

"The defendant represents a continuing danger to the lives and safety of other persons," the filing said.

Con-ui has pleaded not guilty in Williams' death.

"All I can say is that we anticipated the government would seek the death penalty and we will react accordingly," said his attorney, James Swetz. Asked if the facts made it a capital case, he said: "The death penalty is never justified."

Williams, 34, was working in a housing unit at the prison when he was attacked. Court documents allege that Con-Ui stabbed Williams more than 200 times, stomped on his head and throat and slammed his head onto the floor.

Prosecutors allege Con-ui was angry because Williams had ordered a thorough search of his cell the day before. He told a Bureau of Prisons psychologist that he had "swallowed a lot" of "disrespect" from Williams and could not tolerate it any longer, according to prosecution documents filed in the case.

Williams' death has raised questions about staffing and security at Canaan and other federal lockups.

Prosecutors, laying out their case for the death penalty, said Con-ui plotted to stab inmates at another federal prison 15 years ago; agreed to kill a law enforcement officer in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2003 but was arrested by police before he could carry out his plan; threatened a guard in 2009; and stabbed another inmate in 2010. Court documents identify him as a member of a gang called the Arizona Mexican Mafia.

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