3 male guards accused in violent attack at NJ women's prison

FILE - This photo from Monday June 21, 2004, shows New Jersey's Edna Mahan Correctional Facility inmate Mary Tobin, walking a puppy down a cell block hallway as part of a program called Puppies Behind Bars, where dogs are cared for until they are ready to be expertly trained to detect explosives or as guide dogs for the blind. Dozens of corrections officers at New Jersey's only women's prison have been placed on paid leave following allegations that staff brutally beat and sexually assaulted inmates there. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer, File)
FILE - This photo from Monday June 21, 2004, shows New Jersey's Edna Mahan Correctional Facility inmate Mary Tobin, walking a puppy down a cell block hallway as part of a program called Puppies Behind Bars, where dogs are cared for until they are ready to be expertly trained to detect explosives or as guide dogs for the blind. Dozens of corrections officers at New Jersey's only women's prison have been placed on paid leave following allegations that staff brutally beat and sexually assaulted inmates there. (AP Photo/Daniel Hulshizer, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TRENTON, N.J. – A female inmate was punched 28 times and pepper-sprayed when guards attacked her and at least five other women, New Jersey officials said Thursday, bringing misconduct charges against three male prison guards.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal detailed the attack during a video news conference in which he said the guards at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women covered up the January attack by filing false reports. The charges come weeks after the attack made headlines when victims came forward to say they were beaten and sexually assaulted and dozens of guards were placed on paid leave.

Grewal said it's still early in the investigation, but he was announcing initial charges and revealing some details to “send a deterrent message."

“All of our residents have a right to be treated with basic decency and all of our officers have an obligation to avoid force except when absolutely necessary," he said. “Those principles don’t just apply to our streets and our schools but also in our prisons."

Two supervisors, Sgt. Amir Bethea and Sgt. Anthony Valvano, are charged with misconduct and tampering with records. Officer Luis Garcia is charged with those counts, plus aggravated assault.

A message was left with Garcia's attorney. It's unclear who is representing Valvano and Bethea.

No one answered phone numbers listed for all three men.

The Clinton facility — New Jersey's lone women's prison — has a “long, ugly history," Grewal said.