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PLN associate editor quoted in prisoner pen pal article

Associated Press, March 23, 2011. http://www.mercurynews.com/news/ci_17682721?ncl...
PLN associate editor quoted in prisoner pen pal article - Associated Press 2011

Inmate with Tenn. ties has personal ad on website

By SHEILA BURKE Associated Press

Posted: 03/23/2011 12:16:36 PM PDT
Updated: 03/23/2011 02:00:35 PM PDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The website describes a man with a combination of qualities many women dream about: loyal, romantic and ambitious, only this personal ad is about Eben (EHB-in) Payne, who is currently being held in a federal prison hospital.

Payne is accused of being a high-ranking member of a street gang that used intimidation, torture, and killings to protect a drug enterprise that operated in Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Nashville. He is also at the center of a legal battle over whether he's sane enough to stand trial. Yet he is still looking for love.

"You've spent years looking for love in all the wrong places and subjecting yourself to emotional distress by trusting unworthy individuals with your heart," his online profile says. "But now you have finally stumbled across a real man. Don't let the opportunity pass you by, baby."

It's not clear how Payne, who has been detained for the last 13 years and is being medicated with psychotropic drugs, was able to be featured on convictpenpals.com searching for love.

"How in the world does he get access to do this kind of stuff?" said Will Marling, executive director of the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

A prosecutor in the case declined to comment, citing a gag order. One of Payne's attorneys did not return a message.

A federal judge in Nashville is currently deciding whether Payne, who was found incompetent in 2005 and is being held in Springfield, Mo., is sane enough to stand trial.

Lawyers have been arguing whether Payne is too mentally ill to stand trial or if he's faking insanity.

"This website would seem to indicate that he has competency at some level, for sure," Marling said.

The website says the profile was listed in March 2010. It's not clear if Payne posted it, or someone else did it for him.

Court documents said Payne and another man shot a toddler in Oklahoma City and left her for dead when they killed the child's pregnant mother and the woman's boyfriend to keep them from talking to police about gang business. Payne has been described by prosecutors in court filings as a "murderous, dangerous and unrepentant" man who could eventually be released into society if U.S. District Judge John Nixon decides to have him committed to a psychiatric institution. His attorneys said he's a schizophrenic suffering from delusions, whose been diagnosed as severely mentally ill by every government doctor whose treated him in the last seven years.

The online profile gives an entirely different description of the 32-year-old defendant from Los Angeles.

"Unlike most of my peers, I am a very romantic person," the profile says.

The site shows him pictured standing, wearing khaki pants and a cream-colored T-shirt and says he's looking for romance, friendship, legal help and donations.

The operator of convictpenpals.com did not respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press.

A press release on the site said inmates need communication with the outside world or they're more likely to reoffend after being released from prison.

A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Prisons said prisoners don't have access to the Web, but they can send their information to the websites by mail and the companies post the information online. Or, friends and relatives can start a web page on behalf of the prisoners.

"We don't have any regulations preventing that right now," Chris Burke, a spokesman with the Bureau of Prisons said.

An editor of a national magazine for inmates that features ads from convictpenpals.com and similar websites said prisoners usually send their information in to the sites by mail. The websites, in turn, will send online replies to the prisoners in batches by mail.

"But if you have contraband cellphones then you can access these kinds of services directly and receive e-mails directly," said Alex Friedmann, associate editor with Prison Legal News. He said many inmates are able to access social networking sites by using smartphones that have been smuggled into prison.


 


 

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