Feds charge inmate hours before his release for threatening to kill prison guard

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Jemel Thompson was supposed to leave Milan federal prison Friday.

But an FBI agent says Thompson threatened to kill a prison guard and the officer's family and bragged there was nothing officials could do to stop him. So prosecutors unsealed a new criminal case Friday, hours before Thompson was supposed to walk free.

Thompson, 32, was serving a 10-month sentence for violating supervised release conditions stemming from a conviction for gun and drug crimes. Now, Thompson is facing six more years in prison if convicted of threatening the guard.

He was arrested Friday and held without bond pending a detention hearing Monday in federal court in Detroit. Defense lawyer Benton Martin declined comment.

The allegations are contained in an unsealed criminal case that describes violent threats inside the special housing unit for problem inmates at the prison 49 miles southwest of Detroit.

The investigation dates to Feb. 24 when prison guards noticed graffiti scrawled on the walls of Thompson's cell. The graffiti included "F--- Feds" and "I'm going (sic) kill (the guard's last name),"  according to an affidavit signed by an FBI special agent.

Prison guards, including the officer whose name was scrawled on the wall, confronted Thompson. The officer is referred to as Victim #1 in the court filing.

Thompson aggressively approached the cell door, the FBI agent wrote.

"When I get out on March 11, I am going to come up here with my Bloods and kill (the guard)," Thompson said, according to the affidavit.

"He then made a hand gesture toward Victim #1 as if he was firing a gun," the FBI agent wrote.

Thompson was warned not to threaten the guard.

"I don't give a s---," he said, "I'm going to kill him."

The accusation is the latest legal problem for Thompson. His rap sheet started when Thompson was 16 and convicted of home invasion and he was later convicted of arson for burning down a youth home, according to court filings.

He pleaded guilty in 2015 to illegally possessing ammunition, lying to acquire a firearm and attempted heroin distribution and was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.

He was freed in February 2020 but was soon back in prison after pleading guilty to violating supervised release and possessing drugs.

"Here, defendant’s admitted drug use and refusal to appear for his initial substance abuse intake assessment, his refusal to work with his probation officer and repeated cunning lies to same about his whereabouts, and his failure to report to probation to allow for the initiation of electronic monitoring, combined with his past history of arson and felon in possession of ammunition, among other crimes, demonstrate that defendant poses a risk to the community unless his supervised release is revoked," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosemary Wummel Gardey wrote in a March 11, 2021, court filing.

Days later, U.S. District Judge Sean Cox sentenced Thompson to 10 months in prison.

After allegedly threatening the guard last month, a prison employee found Thompson yelling and acting aggressively in the special housing unit.

Again, Thompson vowed to kill the officer, according to the FBI agent.

"Thompson further explained that he would be waiting in the parking lot to kill Victim #1, then use his driver's license to locate and kill his family," the agent wrote.

The prison guard was interviewed to help pinpoint why Thompson was issuing death threats, according to the court filing.

The guard suspected Thompson was upset because the guard had removed trash from his cell days earlier. Thompson had been transferred to the disciplinary unit after staff accused him of illegally possessing a cellphone in prison.

Last week, a member of the prison's psychology staff evaluated Thompson and asked about the alleged threats.

"Thompson justified his threats, saying, 'It's the way I was raised,'" the FBI agent wrote. "'If someone does something to you, you do something to them.'"

Thompson added "he will not get into any trouble for making the threats because he is due to be released," the agent added.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews