New York State
Department of Correctional Services
Glenn S. Goord, Commissioner
Office of Public Information
For immediate release:
Monday April 16, 2001
Suspension follows Nazi flag-flying Officer's arrest for sodomy, misconduct
Correction Officer Edward Kuhnel of the Eastern Correctional Facility was suspended without pay following his arrest today on charges related to improper relations with an inmate, according to Commissioner Glenn S. Goord.
After a joint investigation by this Department's Inspector General, the Division of State Police and the Ulster County District Attorney's Office, Ulster DA Donald A. Williams today authorized Kuhnel's arrest on three counts of sodomy and one count of official misconduct.
Kuhnel surrendered himself at noon at the Ellenville state police barracks. He was arraigned at 1:45 p.m. before Warwarsing Town Justice William O'Brien. Kuhnel pleaded not guilty. Bail was set at $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond. As a condition for bail, he was ordered to surrender the two handguns he carried on his Correction Officer's badge, a 9 mm Luger and a .45-caliber Star, plus any others he carries on handgun permits as a private citizen. He was remanded to the Ulster County jail in Kingston until bail conditions are met.
The charges against Kuhnel include two counts of third-degree sodomy, both Class E felonies; one count of attempted third-degree sodomy and one count of official misconduct, both Class A misdemeanors. The complaint against Kuhnel alleges that, on two separate occasions in May of 2000, he engaged in acts of sodomy with a male inmate at Eastern in Napanoch and that he also attempted to engage in a separate act of sodomy with that same inmate. By virtue of his misuse of his Correction Officer position, to have sexual contact with an inmate, the complaint includes one charge of official misconduct.
Kuhnel's arrest on the sodomy charges stems from a law signed by Governor George E. Pataki on July 2, 1996, that makes any inmate legally incapable of consenting to a sexual act with Department employees. A Class E felony is punishable by up to four years in prison. The penal law defines official misconduct as the unauthorized exercise of official functions by governmental employees. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year's imprisonment. The Department will also file administrative charges seeking Kuhnel's dismissal from his job paying $44,034 annually. He has also been locked out of the facility based upon his arrest for two felonies.
Commissioner Goord said, "99.9 percent of our work force performs their duties in a dedicated and professional manner. The allegations against Kuhnel are serious and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I want to commend both DA Williams and the Division of State Police for their efforts in assisting my Inspector General in this investigation."
DA Williams said, "Correction Officers are the backbone of our state prison system and occupy positions of trust and authority. As a result it is critical, whenever the available evidence establishes an abuse of this position, that law enforcement not hesitate to investigate and prosecute. This is not only for the protection of inmates and the vindication of the criminal justice system, but also for the collective good of the vast number of state Correction Officers who faithfully and diligently carry out their duties on a daily basis."
In May 1988, the Department suspended Kuhnel and sought his dismissal from state service when he was accused of displaying literature from the National Association for the Advancement of White People to both inmates and staff inside of Eastern. An arbitrator later that year ordered him restored to duty with $8,941 in back pay.
In December 1996, the Department again suspended Kuhnel and again sought his dismissal from state service after he publicly displayed an oversized Nazi flag on the side of his Stone Ridge residence, telling reporters that "I like the colors." In June of 1997, an arbitrator ordered him restored to duty with $17,015 in back pay.
Instead, Commissioner Goord appealed the arbitrator's decision and placed Kuhnel on administrative leave. That was designed to prevent Kuhnel from disrupting facility operations while the appeal was pending. The Court of Appeals ruled against the Commissioner's appeal in January 2000 and the Department returned Kuhnel to his prior post. Kuhnel was paid a total of $110,575 between June of 1997 and January of 2000 while on administrative leave and not working.
Kuhnel, 44, first joined state service as a cook in 1980 at the Wallkill Correctional Facility. He became an Officer in 1981. He has spent his entire tenure at the 1,037-bed maximum-security Eastern prison in Ulster County. He is assigned as a South Hall block Officer working the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
If convicted of a felony, Kuhnel will automatically lose his job under Public Officers Law Section 30. If he is convicted of a misdemeanor and does not voluntarily resign from state service, the Department will seek to have him terminated through the arbitration process.
The inmate victim, whose name is being withheld because of the sexual nature the offenses, was in his early 30's at the time the alleged events occurred. He was serving a sentence of 1½-4½ years for attempted second-degree robbery. He was moved from Eastern at the beginning of this investigation and has since been paroled.