A corrections officer at Kern Valley State Prison, who was left battered and bruised by an inmate, now faces criminal charges.
That's because state investigators say he actually agreed to the fight, then tried to frame the inmate to avoid getting in trouble. But, that inmate refused to go down alone, saying he could remain in prison for life for a third strike conviction.
41-year-old Christopher Cruse pleaded not guilty late last month to six felony charges, including filing a false peace officer's report.
Prosecutors are also charging Cruse with filing false insurance claims after he went out on stress leave following the fight.
As Delano Judge Robert Tafoya read off a laundry list of charges, Cruse scribbled copious notes and then entered his plea... not guilty.
Cruse, once charged with protecting and serving those at Kern Valley State Prison, could soon himself serve time behind bars on charges he accepted a challenge to fight an inmate.
Investigators say it happened in late February 2011 in the hard yard of Facility D.
Documents indicate inmate Frances Allen argued for a short time with Cruse before the corrections officer challenged the inmate to a fight. A watch tower guard let the two into the yard, where they squared off and began throwing blows. But, the fight didn't go as the officer planned and soon he found himself on the ground being pummeled by the inmate.
A second corrections officer who is only identified in reports as "Murphy" had followed the two to the yard. Officer Murphy ordered inmate Allen to stop. But, when he didn't, Officer Murphy struck inmate Allen in the thigh with a baton and placed him in handcuffs.
All three agreed the fight was over, but the officers soon realized others had seen what had happened and knew too much. So investigators say Cruse and Murphy hatched a plot to walk Allen through a prison hallway and pretend the inmate assaulted Cruse there.
The officers tried to get Allen to go along with the story, but he refused, saying it could mean a third strike conviction for him and a life sentence.
But, the officers went ahead with the plan, tackling Allen in an empty hallway and reporting Allen had attacked Cruse without provocation.
A 300-page internal affairs report obtained by 17 News, contains large blacked out areas, usually involving names of officers on duty that day. The documents paint a picture of an initial coverup, in which a sergeant ordered an officer to scrub Officer Cruse's blood off the yard with a brush and bleach. Another lieutenant said her report of the incident was erased from the prison computer.
Inmate Allen received an administrative penalty that added 90 days to his term, but he has not been charged criminally for the fight.
Cruse hasn't been charged for the fight either, but faces a slew of felonies for filing false reports after he went on stress leave.
An ex-girlfriend told Internal Affairs investigators Cruse bragged at the time he was making more on disability than he did while working.
Cruse is out of custody on a $60,000 bond. No one answered the phone at the number listed for his current address.
He said during last month's hearing that he's in the process of hiring a defense attorney.