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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

Friday, January 11, 2013

Halfway House Escapee Sent Back To Prison For Failing To Return When Ordered

NEW BERN - United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court yesterday afternoon, United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced BENNIE JOSEPH DUNLAP, III, 26, of Raleigh, to 21 months in prison, followed by a 3 year term of supervised release, on a single charge of Escape in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 751.

Pursuant to DUNLAP’s guilty plea and other evidence in the case, in November of 2011 a federal judge sentenced DUNLAP on a charge for possession of a firearm while being a convicted felon. As a part of the sentence, DUNLAP was ordered to serve a term of imprisonment in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

Under its own rules and policies, and at its discretion, the BOP may transfer an inmate to a halfway house to serve a portion of the term of imprisonment ordered by the court. Service of a term of incarceration at a halfway house is a privilege. Although inmates are given limited privileges to leave a halfway house to, among other things, seek gainful employment and obtain medical care, inmates are at all times in the custody and control of the BOP through the halfway house staff. When authorized to leave, inmates may only be away from the halfway house for the duration of time authorized by the halfway house. Moreover, when authorized to leave, inmates must only go to the authorized location, and then promptly return to the halfway house as instructed.

The evidence showed that on June 21, 2012, the BOP transferred DUNLAP to the halfway house known as Community Corrections Center, Cavalcorp Ltd. (hereinafter “Cavalcorp”), located at 312 Tryon Road in Raleigh, North Carolina. Upon transfer to Cavalcorp, DUNLAP was advised orally and in a written document as follows:

This is your official notification that should you be unaccountable at work, pass, or any other approved site, or if you leave the center without permission, you will be charged with escape.

Contrary to popular belief by the inmate population, you DO NOT HAVE 72 HOURS TO TURN YOURSELF IN before escape charges are filed.

Criminal Escape charges may be pursued with the US Attorney’s Office in each and every case.

DUNLAP executed a document containing this official notification. Above DUNLAP’s signature the document also stated, “I have read the above information and fully understand that if I leave the center without permission, or am unaccountable at any time, I can be charged criminally with Escape. I also understand that there is no grace period to turn myself back in to avoid being charged.”

The evidence showed that on June 21, 2012, DUNLAP was also advised orally and in writing of the contents of an “Acknowledgment of Custody” form. This form advised DUNLAP that, “The willful failure of a prisoner to remain within the extended limits of his confinement or to return within the time prescribed to an institution or facility designated by the Attorney General shall be deemed an escape from custody of the Attorney General...” DUNLAP executed the acknowledgment under the section which stated:

I understand that, while at CAVALCORP LTD. COMPREHENSIVE SANCTION CENTER, I am in the custody of the Attorney General of the United States / Bureau of Prisons. I further understand that leaving the facility without permission from the staff shall be deemed an escape from the custody of the Attorney General. I also understand that leaving my place of employment or training without permission from the staff, or failure to return to the facility within the time prescribed shall be deemed an escape from the custody of the Attorney General of the United States supervision.

The evidence further showed that on July 31, 2012 at approximately 7:40 am, DUNLAP signed out, and was authorized to leave Cavalcorp for the limited purpose of going to Wake Medical Center. DUNLAP was instructed that while away he was to be in telephone contact with Cavalcorp every 2 hours. DUNLAP was to immediately return to Cavalcorp after visiting Wake Medical Center.

DUNLAP failed to report his whereabouts to Cavalcorp by phone as instructed, and was unaccountable from 7:40 a.m until approximately 3:00 pm. At approximately 3:00 pm on July 31, 2012, DUNLAP called Cavalcorp and advised that he was not at Wake Medical Center. Cavalcorp staff ordered DUNLAP to immediately return to the halfway house. DUNLAP did not return as instructed. At approximately 4:15 pm on July 31, 2012, DUNLAP called Cavalcorp again and was ordered to immediately return to Cavalcorp. DUNLAP did not return as instructed. At approximately 5:30 on July 31, 2012, DUNLAP called Cavalcorp again and was ordered to immediately return to Cavalcorp. DUNLAP did not return as instructed.

DUNLAP made no contact with Cavalcorp for two full days between the evening of July 31, 2012 and August 2, 2012. At 6:15 pm on August 2, 2012 DUNLAP called and was again ordered to immediately return to Cavalcorp. Later that night at 10:54 pm, DUNLAP returned to Cavalcorp, and was arrested shortly thereafter.

At the sentencing on January 10, 2013, DUNLAP faced an advisory United States Sentencing Guideline range of 6 to 12 months in prison. Upon motion of the United States, however, the Court upwardly departed and varied to a sentence of 21 months in prison, citing the inadequacy of the defendant’s criminal history category and the need to deter DUNLAP and others from this type of offense. Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Marshals Service. Assistant United States Attorney William M. Gilmore represented the United States.

Updated July 14, 2015