Three inmates at the Cumberland County Jail in Portland have been charged with attacking a fourth inmate and taking contraband drugs the man had hidden in his body before his arrest.

The three inmates – Matthew Bradley, Nicholas Small and Rusty Daniels Swift – were indicted by a grand jury at the Cumberland County Courthouse last week on charges of unlawful sexual contact, assault and criminal threatening in connection with an attack that occurred on Sept. 21.

The fourth inmate, who was being held at the jail in federal custody, reported the attack on Sept. 23, leading sheriff’s Detective Cheryl Holmes to conduct an investigation that involved reviewing video footage from the jail, Sheriff Kevin Joyce said.

The fourth inmate was brought to the jail on Sept. 18 after being arrested on a federal warrant for violating the terms of his probation following a 2013 conviction in U.S. District Court in Portland on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Small, who was the fourth inmate’s cellmate in a general population unit of the jail, noticed several days after the man arrived that he was “nodding off” as if under the influence of a narcotic, and arranged with Bradley and Swift to attack him, Joyce said.

“We’re not able to strip search everyone who comes in the jail,” Joyce said. “They noticed he was nodding off and suspected him of using.”

After conducting the investigation, Holmes was able to conclude that the three inmates penetrated the man’s body to steal as many as six strips of suboxone he had hidden inside himself, the sheriff said.

Suboxone, which is often administered through a dissolvable film that is taken orally, is a prescription drug often given to heroin addicts to treat their opiate addiction. Since the inmates used all of the drug, consuming the evidence, the fourth inmate was not charged with smuggling contraband or drug possession, Joyce said.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep as many drugs out as possible because that’s when people do desperate things,” he said.

The fourth inmate has since been sentenced for his probation violation to serve three months at a federal detention facility in New Hampshire. The other three remain at the jail, where they faced internal jail discipline in addition to the criminal charges.

“It’s an odd case, but not unheard of,” Joyce said. “I would suggest that with the drug addiction issues we’re dealing with, there is a drug war on the streets and a drug war in the jail that corrections officers deal with every day.”

In the past six months, the jail staff has begun transporting any inmates who will be admitted as inmates unable to make bail to Maine Correctional Center in Windham, a state prison that has a full body scanner that can detect drugs being smuggled inside a person’s body.

By using the body scan machine and strip searches, jail staff are able to intercept most contraband drugs. But federal inmates are not always subject to the same search techniques as state inmates, Joyce said.

In the month of November, jail staff took 3,000 random urine screens from inmates and discovered that 15 of those failed the test. Joyce said that number is lower than before the jail began using the prison’s body scan machine.

Bradley, 28, of Portland; Small, 28, of Casco; and Swift, 35, of New Gloucester, each face up to five years in prison for the felony charge of unlawful sexual contact and up to a year in jail on each of the misdemeanor charges of assault and criminal threatening.

Small and Swift are both due to appear in court on Dec. 21 to enter pleas.

Bradley is scheduled to arraigned in court on Jan. 8 on those charges as well as charges from another indictment for a felony drug trafficking case.

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at:

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Twitter: @scottddolan