The burly schnauzer strains at its leash, front paws in the air and bearded mouth agape. Its shotgun-wielding handler holds on tight as the ebony-colored beast jerks forward and locks its gaze on an unseen foe in the distance.
The scene, captured in a crisp photo, is one of the few remaining traces of a shadowy plan to bring giant schnauzers into one of South Carolina’s largest jails to keep order. Its discovery has sparked fresh questions about a former jail director’s possible ties to the breeding and sale of these dogs, an Uncovered investigation has found.
The planned purchase of two trained schnauzers — for a whopping $25,000 each — recently came to light after Charleston County jail officials found invoices and a dossier on the dogs in the public email account of former Detention Chief Deputy Willis Beatty. Beatty ran the jail from 2013 until his ouster last year.
The 2015 sale never went through, and there is nothing in the agency’s records to explain why.
But Sheriff Kristin Graziano and the jail’s new administrator, Abigail Duffy, said the deal was reportedly scuttled after a ranking dog handler at the Al Cannon Detention Center objected to the purchase on ethical grounds. The handler raised concerns that Beatty was trying to get the county to buy schnauzers that Beatty and his wife had bred through a private side business, they said.
Beatty had arranged to purchase the dogs from a company owned by Joseph Garcia, a controversial training consultant who earned hundreds of thousands of dollars through no-bid contracts at the jail on Beatty’s watch, Sheriff’s Office records show.
Duffy said emails and information from jail staff indicate that Beatty and his wife Janene had privately enlisted Garcia’s help in buying a giant schnauzer they planned to breed with one of the consultant’s top dogs for future sales. The schnauzers reportedly mated in a secluded area on the fourth floor of the jail, Duffy said.
Graziano and Duffy said they suspect the two giant schnauzers Beatty planned to buy for the jail in 2015 came from these breeding efforts. Funding for the purchase was to come from a little-known pot of money controlled by top sheriff’s officials outside of the county finance department’s scrutiny, they said.
Al Cannon, who was sheriff at the time, told The Post and Courier that he knew nothing about the schnauzer sale. Nor was Cannon aware that Beatty and his wife had been coordinating with Garcia on the extracurricular breeding business.
Those dealings are contained in a number of internal jail emails the newspaper obtained as part of its Uncovered investigation, a statewide push to expose questionable conduct by government officials in South Carolina.
South Carolina’s ethics law bars public officials from using their positions for personal financial gain, or to benefit their families or businesses they are associated with. Beatty’s emails indicate that he used his work email account and professional connections to further the interests of the dog breeding business run by his wife, and that he did so on county time.
“It’s just not appropriate,” Duffy said.
Graziano agreed, saying this seems to be a clear conflict of interest. “It’s a little too incestuous for it not to be,” she said.
The episode illustrates what can happen when professional and personal lines blur, particularly in tight-knit law enforcement communities that are often averse to outside scrutiny. It also calls attention to loopholes in county purchasing rules that can allow tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to slide through with little vetting.
Beatty did not respond to messages left with his family and current employer. He also didn’t acknowledge letters sent to his home and workplace with a detailed list of questions about the breeding operation and the proposed schnauzer sale.
Garcia declined to answer questions when reached by email.
Beatty’s wife told The Post and Courier in 2020 that she never had a business relationship with Garcia or his companies. When contacted by the newspaper last month, Janene Prock-Beatty repeatedly questioned the relevance of this story and refused to answer questions.
“Until you can explain it to me and why you need this information, we don’t have anything to discuss,” she said. She did not return subsequent phone calls.
Graziano booted Willis Beatty from his $123,718-a-year job at the jail when she took office in January 2021. He now works as a captain at the Dorchester County jail.
Garcia, meanwhile, has been under increasing scrutiny across the country for teaching tactics that critics decry as heavy-handed toward inmates. A use-of-force expert singled out Garcia’s company for criticism last year after examining training at the Charleston County jail. That followed the death of Jamal Sutherland, a 31-year-old mentally ill Black man who was pepper-sprayed, repeatedly shocked with a Taser and wrestled into submission by detention officers.
Reports issued by the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office stated that tactical officers were trained to use aggression and intimidation to control inmates, employing methods that violated the jail’s own use-of-force policies.
Graziano said she blames Garcia’s training for setting the stage for Sutherland’s death, which led to the firing of two detention officers and a $10 million settlement for Sutherland’s family. She blames Beatty for allowing Garcia to perpetuate problematic tactics at the jail, she said.
“He permitted these violations of policy that allowed people to continue to be trained in a way that was not consistent with law,” Graziano said.
Still, Garcia and his companies pulled in at least $647,807 between 2011 and 2018 while working under Beatty at the detention center, according to jail officials. A full tally of his earnings is unknown, Duffy said, due to incomplete and missing records.
A ‘bold and valiant’ dog
Giant schnauzers surfaced in the Bavarian Alps in the mid-1800s as rugged working dogs adept at driving cattle from farms to market. People found them to be highly intelligent, obedient and fiercely protective of their homes and families, according to the American Kennel Club.
Over time, the muscular schnauzers — described by fanciers as a “bold and valiant figure of a dog” — became favorites for police, military and search-and-rescue work, the AKC stated.
Joseph Garcia has prominently featured the dogs in his promotional materials and on social media, at times showing them inside jails sporting specially fitted helmets and goggles. They are part of the military-style tactical training he and his companies have provided over the years to help jail and prison officers prepare for riots and other inmate violence.
Garcia’s approach seemed cutting edge when he arrived in Charleston County in 2008 with his company, U.S. Corrections Special Operations Group (U.S. C-SOG). A wiry man with close-cropped hair, Garcia cut a strapping figure in promotional photos, decked out in combat-style gear and wielding big guns and snarling schnauzers.
Jail officials saw promise in his use of dogs, weapons and technology to keep unruly inmates in check. Assaults on inmates and officers declined after the jail employed his methods, former Assistant Sheriff Mitch Lucas told The Post and Courier.
Particularly impressive was his command over his raven-haired giant schnauzer Max, who seemed laser-focused on Garcia’s movements and orders, officials said.
Beatty, who began working at the jail in 1990, had been promoted to major by the time Garcia arrived. In that role, he oversaw the jail’s dealings with Garcia, Lucas said. Emails indicate the two men also developed a friendship. They dined together with their wives on at least one occasion in which Beatty’s wife brought dog treats for Max, emails show.
Janene Prock-Beatty also had ties to the detention center, working as an account manager for Georgia-based McDaniel Supply Co., which runs commissary sales for the jail, sheriff’s officials said.
Word soon got around that Beatty and his wife, who previously bred pugs, had opted to start breeding giant schnauzers on the side, several present and former jail officials said.
Lucas and Cannon, the former sheriff, said they were aware of the Beattys’ breeding effort but didn’t see any obvious problem with it. Beatty and his wife had always been enterprising individuals, they said.
“They were always looking for something to do to make money,” Cannon said.
Both men said they were not aware of any direct business dealings between the Beattys and Garcia. If they had, Cannon said, he likely would have consulted with an attorney on the ethical implications of such an arrangement.
Clues to those dealings were buried in Beatty’s emails — emails that suggest relationships that extended far beyond the jailhouse walls.
Breeding behind bars?
The first hints came in a July 2013 message Garcia sent to Beatty’s work email account, titled “K9 info for wife.” Garcia passed along the name of a German man known as a breeder and supplier of giant schnauzers.
A month later, in August 2013, Janene Prock-Beatty wrote to Garcia asking for details about the purchase of a 9-week-old female giant schnauzer that Garcia was arranging through a Kentucky source. Garcia sent her a video of the dog and said the source had set a firm price of $3,000.
“They will give us this opportunity to buy her,” Garcia wrote. “She is a great deal!”
Prock-Beatty asked for more time to discuss the price with her husband. But she agreed that the dog appeared to be a great investment and that it was just the type of animal they were looking for.
“I need to ask you to make sure,” she asked Garcia, “you still want to go forward w/this venture w/me?”
Garcia’s reply does not appear in the email string, which Prock-Beatty forwarded to her husband’s work account at the jail. The email also does not specify exactly what the venture entailed.
The dog video that Garcia sent to Prock-Beatty came from a master dog trainer named David Harris in Frankfort, Ky. Harris told The Post and Courier he didn’t recall many details of the 2013 sale. But he clearly remembered Garcia coming to him for guidance on raising and training giant schnauzers. Garcia explained that it was a lifelong dream of his to get into the field, Harris said.
“I know he was desperately trying to breed giant schnauzers,” Harris said. “I don’t know whether he ever had any success at that.”
Duffy, the current jail administrator, said jail staffers have indicated that Beatty and his wife ultimately bought a female schnauzer. The schnauzer reportedly mated with one of Garcia’s dogs at the jail, but she has yet to find someone who actually witnessed the coupling, she said.
The following year, between May and July 2014, Beatty and his wife traded emails about people looking to buy puppies from a litter of a dozen giant schnauzers they had on hand.
Beatty also used his work email account to send Garcia a link to a new website for JPB Giant Schnauzer, a business that incorporated Janene Prock-Beatty’s initials in its logo. The website, which advertised dogs for corrections and private security, featured several photos and a video of Garcia, his schnauzers and training sessions. Several of the photos bear the logo of Garcia’s U.S. C-SOG company.
The man who built the website shares the same last name as Garcia’s former wife, and his LinkedIn account indicates he was working for Garcia’s company at the time. He did not return a call from The Post and Courier.
“It was clear on that website that she was the breeder for Joseph Garcia,” Duffy said. “So I don’t think there’s any way for them to deny that they had a relationship. I mean, she had access to his photographs and his logo and all of his icons.”
Schnauzers for sale
In August and September 2014, Beatty and Garcia traded emails again, this time about the proposed sale of a giant schnauzer named Koah to the jail. Beatty indicated in an email from his work account that he was “finishing up with Mitch and sheriff about Koa” and asked Garcia to send him more information about K-9s in jails.
U.S. C-SOG’s paperwork stated that Koah was born in South Carolina in June 2013 but no information was given on the breeder. The dog’s American Kennel Club registration offered no additional clues.
In December 2014, Beatty received an eight-page guide from Garcia’s company detailing the planned purchase of Koah and a second giant schnauzer, along with the dogs’ price, tributes and training. The guide listed “Chief Beatty” as the authorizing official and congratulated the jail on its dog purchase.
An accompanying invoice listed the price at $53,540, once equipment was factored in. The schnauzers were said to be able to handle everything from cell extractions and inmate escorts to riot control and drug searches.
Both dogs were said to be undergoing training in Kentucky and would arrive in the early fall of 2015, but the deal never went through. What happened to the dogs remains unclear.
Lucas, the former assistant sheriff, told The Post and Courier he never saw the paperwork and knew of no plans to buy dogs from Garcia or his companies. He speculated that Beatty may have been preparing to pitch the idea to the sheriff, only to have later discarded the plan.
Graziano and Duffy said they have learned that the purchase was abandoned after an officer tasked with retrieving the dogs refused to do so because he believed they had been bred by the Beattys. The sheriff and Duffy declined to publicly name the officer in question, and he would not agree to speak with The Post and Courier.
“His response was literally ‘You bred those dogs. It’s not ethical for you to buy them and I’m not going to go get them,’ ” Duffy said.
Graziano and Duffy said they do not believe then-Sheriff Al Cannon had any inkling of the deal. Cannon confirmed that in an interview with The Post and Courier.
Cannon said he would have shot down the proposed purchase because he considers schnauzers to be too aggressive and intimidating for the jail.
“That would have never flown,” he said.
Cannon preferred Labradors, and that’s what the Sheriff’s Office ultimately settled on when they finally purchased two contraband-sniffing canines for the jail in 2016. They also bought a hound to serve as an explosive detection dog.
The cost for the three dogs: $23,327 — less than half the cost of Garcia’s two schnauzers.
In April 2016, Beatty used his jail email to reach out during the workday to a veteran Kentucky lawman and dog trainer named Dennis Clark. He told Clark that he was trying to determine if a giant schnauzer the trainer had featured on Facebook had come from a litter born to the Beattys’ dog Chai. Clark’s dog Dash had earned much acclaim for its work as a police dog.
Clark told Beatty he got the dog from a man named “Joe,” but they had a falling out and Joe refused to give him paperwork on the dog’s birth. Clark confirmed to The Post and Courier that he was referring to Joseph Garcia.
“He was with a litter that joe had taken to a kennel in Frankfort ky to be trained,” Clark wrote to Beatty. Frankfort was the city where Garcia had worked to arrange the 2013 schnauzer purchase for the Beattys.
Beatty shared the exchange with his wife, who agreed Dash had likely been part of a 12-puppy litter Chai gave birth to in April 2014. Beatty asked Clark for photos of Dash to feature on Janene Prock-Beatty’s website.
Clark told The Post and Courier that he later learned that the Beattys had turned over at least six puppies to Garcia to be trained for sale. Beatty could not determine where the dogs ended up, Clark said. He told Beatty that Garcia had sold at least one of the dogs for around $40,000, he said.
It’s unclear how Beatty reacted to that information. But later that same year, Garcia approached Beatty about further solidifying his presence in Charleston.
Garcia sent Beatty a copy of a contract his company had with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. He asked in an email if it could be transferred to Charleston, adding: “This is strictly confidential.”
The contract in Spartanburg called for the agency to pay Garcia $72,000 a year for a wide variety of corrections training, from cell extractions to dealing with mentally ill inmates. The contract, signed by the county administrator, also called for Garcia to be considered an honorary deputy with the rank of captain.
Records from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy confirm that Garcia underwent training and was certified as a detention officer in Spartanburg County between September and December 2016. His certification was later revoked at the request of Sheriff Chuck Wright, who told the academy Garcia had been found ineligible to have received the training. He did not specify why.
Lucas, the former assistant sheriff, said Garcia never held a rank or a sworn position within the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
Graziano began raising concerns about Beatty’s involvement with Garcia while she was running for sheriff in 2020. Questions swirled around the Sheriff’s Office’s use of the jail’s inmate welfare fund to buy ammunition, gear and training for its special operations team at the detention center. That was the team that Garcia had helped outfit and train.
By that time, Garcia had moved on from the jail. Lucas said the relationship had run its course and Beatty decided to bring it to a close. Cannon added that officials had always intended for the training to eventually move in-house once staff became sufficiently skilled in the practices.
The 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office had difficulty obtaining U.S. C-SOG’s training materials while investigating the events that led up to inmate Jamal Sutherland’s death in January 2021. The Sheriff’s Office did not retain any of the training objectives or lesson plans. And Garcia claimed his training materials were “classified,” a report from the Solicitor’s Office states.
The report found that Garcia’s contract with the jail ended in late 2018 after four of the jail’s Special Operations Group deputies wrote complaints about his training methods. The deputies said Garcia was biased, did a poor job training new recruits, was inconsistent and used the deputies to make personal marketing materials. One senior tactical officer claimed Garcia’s dog had attacked jail personnel. His schnauzer Max also attacked another officer’s dog, according to an internal Sheriff’s Office report.
Investigators also located a training video, likely from around 2011, in which two deputies were filmed being sprayed in the face repeatedly with full canisters of pepper spray while Garcia yelled questions at them.
Gary Raney, a correctional use-of-force expert hired by 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, called the exercise ridiculous and said it served no legitimate purpose. He likened it to a “hazing exercise.”
Garcia has since run into problems elsewhere, as well. Dozens of inmates in York County, Penn., filed a class-action lawsuit against the county last year over its hiring of one of Garcia’s companies, Corrections Special Applications Unit. They alleged the move created a toxic culture of “excessive and unjustified terror and violence” at the county prison, according to the York Daily Record.
The paper also reported that a Colorado county paid $325,000 last year to settle a jail civil rights lawsuit and agreed to never again use Garcia or his company. And detention officers at New York’s Rikers Island jail complained in 2016 about his company’s unorthodox and combative methods, The New York Post reported.
The Charleston County detention center was among the first large jails in the county to hire Garcia for training. But Duffy said her staff has been unable to find any signed contracts between the Sheriff’s Office and Garcia’s companies since taking over administration of the jail last year.
Duffy said she did find a letter from Garcia indicating that he had hired Beatty’s daughter, Danielle Prock-Beatty, to work part time for Corrections Special Applications Unit while she was also on the Sheriff’s Office payroll in the warrants division. Duffy provided a copy of that letter to The Post and Courier in response to a records request.
In a brief conversation with The Post and Courier, Danielle Prock-Beatty repeatedly cursed at a reporter and denied working for Garcia, saying “that is a straight (expletive) bold-faced lie.”
“I never worked for Garcia,” she said. “Get your facts straight.”
Duffy said she was left to piece together a financial trail documenting payments to Garcia and his organizations. Funding came from the jail’s inmate welfare fund and another little-known pool of money the detention center receives each year from the telecommunications company that provides phone and video visitation services to inmates, she said.
Normally, Charleston County agencies need to get three competitive bids for any purchase over $10,000 or provide justification that only one source is available or suitable. But the county’s procurement policies specifically exempt professional training from those bidding requirements.
What’s more, the money from the telecommunications company was paid directly from purchase orders submitted by the jail’s leaders, Duffy said. The money, which ranged from $50,000 to $100,000 annually, was supposed to go toward security upgrades and other improvements, but records show it also went to things like refreshments for administrative gatherings, iPads and Garcia’s training, she said.
Finance officials from the county procurement office and the Sheriff’s Office weren’t even aware that pot of money existed until last year, Graziano and Duffy said. Changes have since been made to ensure greater transparency and accountability with this and other jail accounts, they said.
Lynn Teague, an open government advocate with the S.C. League of Women Voters, said she was troubled by the lack of financial oversight for these pots of money, the no-bid arrangements for training, and the blurring of professional and personal interests in this episode.
“At the very least, (this episode) was handled very badly and it certainly lacks transparency and accountability,” she said. “It doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t smell good.”
Lucas, the former assistant sheriff, sees it differently. The no-bid arrangement made sense because Garcia was the only one offering this training, and he gave the jail a break on his rates in exchange for hosting sessions for other agencies at the detention center, Lucas said. Even if Beatty did collaborate with Garcia on breeding dogs, Lucas said, Beatty still wasn’t profiting directly from his work at the jail.
“It doesn’t affect the jail in any way I see,” Lucas said.
Cannon was less sure, saying he has always been sensitive to even the appearance of impropriety and would probably have sought a legal opinion on the arrangement.
What is for certain is that the jail no longer uses many of the tactics it paid Garcia to teach its officers. Nearly $648,000 later, the jail has little to show for its investment except for controversy, unused equipment and some snarling schnauzer photos in a bunch of old emails.
Stephen Hobbs contributed to this article from Charleston.