MDOC employee’s drug case now in federal court

James Kitchen
James Kitchen in court on April 12, 2017.

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan prison employee is now facing federal charges in a drug investigation, but his attorney said it’s his family members that are to blame.

James Kitchen was arrested in March as part of a drug bust in metro Muskegon that police say involved kilos of drugs including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Wednesday, state-level charges against Kitchen were dismissed and his case was transferred to federal court, where he has been indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. He is now in federal custody.

After the proceedings, Kitchen’s attorney told 24 Hour News 8 that it was Kitchen’s family that was involved with drugs, not Kitchen himself.

“He had a home and it was left with access to his cousin, so he had his home open to family and that’s the explanation,” the attorney said. “There’s no indication of him having knowledge at this point, based on what I’ve read and what we’ve discovered so far.”

Kitchen, 51, has worked for the Michigan Department of Corrections for 16 years at the West Shoreline facility, where he investigated prisoner complaints. He is on unpaid suspension. An MDOC spokesperson said there is no reason to believe any drugs were sold at the prison, but that an investigation is underway.

Alfonso Johnson and Demarco Knox, who were arrested the same day as Kitchen as part of the bust, also now face federal charges, an indictment filed Tuesday shows. Johnson was indicted on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances, three counts of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money.

Knox was indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking.

Devanda Montgomery was also named in the federal indictment and faces charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to import controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to launder money.