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Corrections officer guilty of smuggling fake drugs

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A Fresh Meadows corrections officer who delivered pseudo cocaine to a Queens House of Detention prisoner was convicted last Thursday in State Supreme Court in Queens of smuggling and drug trafficking, the Queens district attorney said.

Danielle Rutledge, 32, of 69-21E 186th Lane, was found guilty of accepting a total of $1,200 to smuggle two packages of imitation cocaine to an inmate from an undercover investigator posing as the prisoner’s sister.

In a weeklong non-jury trial before Judge Laura Blackburne, Rutledge was convicted of the attempted sale of a controlled substance, official misconduct, and an attempt to promote prison contraband, DA Richard Brown said.

She faces up to 30 years in prison when she is sentenced March 27.

Rutledge “violated her oath of office and placed her fellow corrections officers at risk by trafficking dangerous contraband into the facility for personal profit,” Brown said in a statement. “Official corruption based on greed will be vigorously prosecuted.”

But Rutledge’s lawyer contended she had been unfairly entrapped during a sting operation conducted by the city.

Between July 26 and Aug. 1, 2000, Rutledge twice agreed to meet near her home with a woman she thought was the inmate’s sister, but was actually an undercover investigator for the city Department of Investigation, according to Brown. On both occasions the corrections officer accepted half an ounce of simulated cocaine and a $600 cash payment to deliver the cellophane-wrapped packages to the inmate in the Kew Gardens detention center, he said.

At the time, she had only been employed as a corrections officer for about six months and was still a probationary employee, said Jason Russo, her defense attorney.

Investigators videotaped both meetings and also recorded telephone conversations in which Rutledge confirmed her delivery of the drugs. In the conversation, Rutledge told the investigator she had smuggled the packages into her workplace by hiding them in the waistband of her pants, Brown said.

Rutledge was arrested Aug. 31 and pleaded innocence based on a defense of entrapment. Her defense attorney, Jason Russo, said the sting was a “setup” that unfairly targeted his client. He said the Department of Investigation had offered the inmate a reduced sentence on an armed robbery conviction if he could uncover corruption within the Queens detention center. The convict then singled out Rutledge for temptation.

“She didn’t approach [the inmate] — he approached her. He was trying to secure a benefit for himself,” Russo said. He said the inmate enticed her with promise of payments. “She was weak in that way, I guess, and she unfortunately went for it,” the lawyer said.

Russo said he will press for the minimum sentence of probation, citing the circumstances of the case and the interests of his client’s children. Rutledge, who is divorced, has two sons, ages 13 and 4, and lives with the boys and her mother, Russo said.

The department had been investigating the case for a month before completing the sting, said Keith Schwamm, a spokesman for DOI. Department of Investigation Assistant Commissioner Michael Caruso and Department of Corrections Inspector General Migdalia Figueroa conducted the investigation.

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