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Crime & Courts

Inmate Who Called In Murdaugh Trial Bomb Threat Gets Sanctioned

Will face a criminal charge at the end of his lengthy prison sentence …

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The inmate who used a contraband cell phone to disrupt Alex Murdaugh’s murder trial with a bomb threat has lost his telephone privileges for six months over the infraction.  

Joey Dean Coleman was an inmate at the Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Ridgeland, South Carolina when he phoned the threat into the Colleton County courthouse on the afternoon of Wednesday, February 8, 2023. Coleman claimed there was a bomb in the judge’s chambers – prompting an evacuation of the entire building and subsequent search.

No explosive devices were found and the threat was quickly deemed unfounded. Additional short-term consequences for the 32-year-old included the loss of three days of good time, loss of canteen privileges for 180 days and loss of visitation privileges for 180 days. According to a report from the Colleton County sheriff’s office, Coleman will be charged criminally in connection with the incident when he is released. Coleman is roughly four years in to a 30-year sentence for kidnapping, assault, armed robbery and weapons charges. He is not eligible for parole and his projected release date is May 10, 2044.

The incident report from Colleton County said the call came in at 12:22 p.m. EST from an “unavailable” number. The caller, speaking very quietly, said, “there is a bomb in the judge’s chamber.”

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Joey Dean Coleman (SCDC)

Once the courthouse was evacuated, Colleton County detective Laura Rutland and agent Rebecca Gregg of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) began “pulling intelligence on the phone call that was received”.

Tracing the phone to the Ridgeland Correctional Institution, SLED agents notified the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) and three correctional officers conducted a search of the cell where the phone was pinging. As they entered the cell – which was occupied by two inmates – Coleman had the phone in his hand and quickly tried to hide it under his pillow.

After the search, Coleman admitted the phone was his but denied making the call to the courthouse.

An initial forensic examination of the phone confirmed the black Motorola touch screen phone was the device used to phone in the bomb threat.

The phone was examined by SCDC investigators and SLED with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service. Coleman’s Gmail account active was on the phone – confirming the device as belonging to him.

Coleman was immediately moved to a maximum security facility at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, S.C. and charged by SCDC staff with possession of a cell phone, possession of contraband, and committing a felony.

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‘IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME …’

To say Coleman has not had an easy time adjusting to life behind bars would be an understatement.

As FITSNews reported in July, Coleman’s disciplinary record includes sanctions for gang activity and possessing a weapon. In 2020, a homemade shiv was discovered during a search of his cell as well as items indicating an affiliation with the gang known as Folk Nation. Prompting that search while he was still in the evaluation phase of his incarceration at Kirkland – was a note he wrote to staff members expressing his discontent over meals, canteen, phone calls, hygiene and lack of medical attention.

“Y’all just walk the yard and play like this don’t even bother y’all,” he wrote in September 2020. “We starve on weekends with two meals, weekdays and weekends no canteen.”

Coleman indicated in his letter that the purportedly harsh conditions were “enough to kidnap the COs and demand things” but that instead he was “respectfully asking for change.”

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Since the bomb threat, Coleman’s SCDC work record indicates he was terminated from a job as wardkeeper assistant on August 13, 2023 over a disciplinary issue.

Coleman requested a hardship transfer in June 2022 and six months later his request was approved. After spending nearly two years at McCormick Correctional Institution he was relocated to Ridgeland in Jasper County. That move was made on January 24, 2023 – just as jury selection was wrapping up in the Murdaugh trial.

Coleman’s mother visited him in Ridgeland on January 28, 2023 – days prior to the bomb threat call that forced his relocation to Broad River. Coleman is now ineligible for visitation until at least the end of January 2024.

On February 22, 2023, an arrest warrant for making a bomb threat was sworn out for Coleman.  A law enforcement hold was placed on him pending his release in 2044 – meaning he will have to answer for those charges upon his eventual release from SCDC in twenty years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher and author. Her 2007 book ‘Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal’ was the first to cover forever chemicals and their impact on communities – a story later told in the movie ‘Dark Waters’. Her investigative work has been featured in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world. Lyons also appears in ‘Citizen Sleuth’ – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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