, Salem, MA

July 31, 2013

District attorney: Inmate found with cellphone, drugs in jail


---- — MIDDLETON — A Middleton Jail inmate with a lengthy and violent record was found with a cellphone and drugs inside a bathroom stall last week, and he is now facing a series of charges, including threats to kill two correctional officers.

It remains unclear how the inmate obtained the contraband items.

Joseph Graciale, 32, from Lynn, is currently serving a one-year sentence on drug charges. Yesterday, he appeared in Salem District Court to be arraigned on new charges that he threatened to find and kill the two jail employees who were attempting to put him in custody after he was found last Wednesday with the phone and drugs.

He is also charged with having contraband in a jail, assault and battery on a correctional officer, and charges of possessing heroin and the prescription drug Klonopin.

It is a violation of jail rules to possess a cellphone while in custody.

According to prosecutors and court documents, Graciale was overheard whispering in a bathroom stall last Wednesday afternoon.

Once the door was opened, officers saw Graciale throwing something in the trash. They later found the battery to a cellphone.

Graciale, according to reports filed by officers in the case, came out of the stall, shoved an officer out of the way and continued toward the showers, where he threw the cellphone to the floor, shattering it.

Officers said in their reports that they did not find a SIM card for the Samsung, which would have contained contacts and other information from the phone.

During a subsequent strip search, officers found the finger of a latex glove, stuffed with heroin and three Klonopin pills, tucked inside the hole for the drawstring waistband of Graciale’s shorts.

Graciale allegedly told the officers “You ... are (expletive) dead. I’m gonna kill you when I get out,” followed by more vulgarities, the report says.

The reports do not state whether jail officials have any idea how Graciale got the phone and drugs while in jail, where he’s been held since at least May.

Maurice Pratt, a spokesman for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, did not return two calls seeking comment yesterday.

Graciale had been charged with murder five years ago in the shooting of a 43-year-old Lynn man behind Lynn City Hall. However, on the day his trial was set to start in Salem Superior Court, the state’s eyewitness suddenly invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify, gutting the case and leading the district attorney’s office to drop the murder charge.

Prosecutors referred to Graciale’s seven-page record in seeking $10,000 cash bail on the new case.

That record dates back to Graciale’s teen years. It also includes an episode in 2011 when Graciale, in Salem District Court for a Danvers drug case, learned that his girlfriend was going to surrender him to the court so that she could get her bail money back. Graciale bolted from the courtroom, only to be caught near the exit to the courthouse.

Defense lawyer William O’Hare did not contest the bail amount sought by prosecutors yesterday, saying that his client is not eligible for parole until November at the soonest.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.