Inmate convicted of having cell phone in jail

Published 2:21 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Following a two-day jury trial, Alexander Derand Harris was convicted this week in Rowan County Criminal Superior Court of felony possession of a cell phone while being an inmate.

Judge Anna Mills Wagoner sentenced Harris to an active prison sentence of 8 to 19 months.

On or about Dec. 24, 2014, a correctional officer working at Piedmont Correctional Institution in Salisbury was walking to the visitation area. When the officer arrived, he saw Harris put a small, square, black object in his right front pants pocket.

When the officer asked Harris about it, the officer saw Harris take a black cell phone out of his pocket and throw it. The black cell phone was recovered. At the time of the offense, Harris was serving an active prison sentence for felony sell/deliver cocaine.

Assistant District Attorney Barrett Poppler prosecuted the case. District Attorney Brandy Cook said her office will continue to aggressively prosecute cases where inmates are illegally in possession of cell phones. In September 2014, a bill was signed into law that increased the penalty for a prisoner possessing a cell phone from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The N.C. Conference of District Attorneys praised the increased penalty in the wake of a kidnapping case involving an assistant district attorney’s family member, which was directed by a prisoner through communications via cell phone.