Local Lawmakers Want More Answers After Omar Best Trial

By Mallory Lane

Published 05/21 2014 05:27PM

Updated 05/21 2014 05:46PM

BELLEFONTE, CENTRE COUNTY - A prison case in Centre County sparked a state and system-wide overhaul of prison security.

Tuesday night, a jury found 36 year-old Omar Best guilty on all counts of the rape and assault of a woman working in a clerical area of Rockview Prison last July.

Last December, officials with the State Department of Corrections came to Centre County to answer some questions about the state-wide prison reform. There were some questions they could not answer, as Best had yet to stand trial.

Local lawmakers said now that the trial is over, they're ready to have some of those questions answered.

Representative Mike Hanna is thrilled.

"All of the evidence indicated his guilt right from the start," Hanna said. "I think he is the type of person we want removed from society."

It was a brutal attack and one State Corrections officials call unacceptable, as Best raped and choked the victim unconscious and left her for dead.

Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said prison administrators failed to appoint a unit manager in the housing unit where the assault happened. Among other things, he blames a lack of inadequate and in some cases, non-existent, emergency personal alarm systems for employees.

After addressing local media and state representatives in December, there were still questions he couldn't answer.

"Whether staffing levels are adequate and even if they are, are they properly allocated to protect personnel," Hanna said.

Hanna is now pushing for those answers.

"We're putting together a letter to him, reiterating our request for answers to those questions, now that this conviction has been entered," he said.

Meanwhile, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Best is likely eligible for the three strikes law, giving harsher punishments to habitual offenders.

"Because he is likely eligible for three strikes, which we are looking to seek the imposition of, he might face a life sentence," Parks Miller said. "If that is true, we will absolutely be seeking that based on predatory dangerous behavior."

Best's sentencing is tentatively scheduled for August 7.

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