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By Nicholas Grube
Triplicate staff writer
The fog of corruption and conspiracy swirling around Pelican Bay State Prison for nine years dissipated when an inmate facing murder charges pleaded guilty to lesser counts and ensured he would never live outside the confines of the maximum security prison.
Jury selection for the trial of Duke K. Bolter, a 54-year-old Pelican Bay inmate, was scheduled to begin Tuesday in the Del Norte Superior Court. However, Bolter unexpectedly pleaded out during his readiness conference the day before, accepting an additional seven years, four months on top of his current 35-to-life sentence for a previous murder conviction.
Bolter pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon and to being an accessory after the fact. In addition this counts as another "strike" in California's three-strike system.
"I guarantee he will never see the light of day," said Del Norte County District Attorney Mike Riese, who was prosecuting the case.
A conviction would eliminate any chance that Bolter could be released into the public, Riese said. As part of the plea deal, Bolter also waved his appellate right, meaning he cannot challenge Monday's ruling.
"It pretty much guarantees that Bolter won't get out," said Riese. "He'll die in prison."
The plea also vindicates Pelican Bay staff who have lived with allegations of corruption and conspiracy ever since Bolter's case was filed in 1999.
"It goes a long way to clear the name of the officers that work at Pelican Bay on a day to day basis," Pelican Bay Public Information Officer Ken Thomas said. "The fact that he pled out goes a long way in reassuring the general public that the men and women who work at Pelican Bay are professional with dealing with inmates. And it goes a long way in repairing the public's outlook based on allegations made by an inmate who is charged with murder."
Bolter was charged with the 1998 killing of William S. Boyd, a fellow Pelican Bay inmate who was serving a life sentence for a Riverside County murder.
But according to court documents filed by Bolter's defense, Boyd's murder was a part of a conspiracy involving a corrupt syndicate of Pelican Bay prison guards, and that it was a different inmate not Bolter who killed Boyd.
This conspiracy stemmed from an incident during the late 1990s when several correctional officers were charged with coordinating attacks on inmates who were convicted of child molestation.
In 1998 one of the guards, Jose Garcia, was on trial for conspiracy to orchestrate the assaults by providing inmates with the knowledge needed to carry out the attacks.
Boyd, a "shot-caller" who ordered hits on the identified sex offenders, testified against Garcia, who was subsequently found guilty.
Two months later Boyd was stabbed in the Pelican Bay exercise yard.
Bolter's defense had his case actually gone to trial was that Boyd was murdered in retribution for testifying against Garcia, and that other prison guards had organized the hit.
However, evidence gathered by the prosecution and investigators at Pelican Bay found that Bolter fabricated the conspiracy theory.
Riese spoke with many inmates and parolees who were at Pelican Bay at the time of Boyd's murder. All of them, he said, denounced the conspiracy theory Bolter and his defense concocted.
"I have Bolter on tape admitting to another inmate that there was no conspiracy," he said, including that the physical evidence was overwhelming as well.
"All the blood was on Bolter," Riese said, adding that Bolter was coated in Boyd's blood and no one else on the yard was. "Bolter was covered by the victim's blood. Nobody else was."