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News in Brief
CA: On December 16, 1996, a federal jury in Sacramento awarded $48,000 in damages to Jane Mootz, a guard at the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, after finding she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, sergeant Howard Helms.
CA: On January 23, 1997, PLN subscriber David Finney escaped from the Richard Donovan Correctional Center in San Diego by walking out of the prison. Prison officials said that Finney somehow gained access to cash, street clothes and employee ID. Once outside the prison Finney called a cab and waited 25 minutes for it to arrive, then drive him downtown. This is Finney's fourth escape since he was convicted of murder in 1974. In prior escapes Finney has impersonated a lawyer, a prison guard and cut a hole through a fence. The San Diego prison is surrounded by a mile of high voltage lethal fencing.
CA: On January 23, 1997, state murder charges were filed against James Ferris in the choking and stabbing death of Ineasie Baker, a California Youth Authority counselor at the Chino facility where Ferris was serving a life sentence for murder. Prosecutors allege that after killing Baker, Ferris dumped the body in a trash bin. Two days later Baker's body was found in a landfill. If convicted Ferris faces the death penalty. No motive was given for the death.
CA: Soledad prison guard Ronald Riva was convicted in November, 1996, of molesting six children over a six year period while participating in an Internet child porn ring. Riva faces up to 17 life terms after the state jury convicted him of 18 counts of child molestation. He also faces federal charges of distributing obscene material.
CO: On December 20, 1996, Charles Morrison was murdered in the medium security portion of the U.S. penitentiary at Florence. On January 16, 1997, PLN subscriber, and Oregon militia supporter, Maynard Campbell was stabbed to death in a fight near his cell in the maximum security section of the prison. Campbell's cellmate was stabbed int he attack as well. BOP spokesman Joe Driver said several suspects were in custody in those deaths. On January 21, 1997, Frank Melendez was murdered in the prison's Security Housing Unit but his death was not discovered for two days because his cellmate allegedly propped the body up during count periods. BOP officials deny widespread problems at the prison even though it now accounts for more than half of BOP deaths thus far in fiscal year 1997, which began October 1, 1996.
DC: On January 6, 1997, Lorton prison guard Helen Butler was arrested and charged with helping prisoner Thomas Wilkes escape from the prison on December 25, 1996, by waving him past a tower guard as Wilkes walked out of prison. Wilkes, serving a 30 year to life sentence for killing his girlfriend in 1989, turned himself into St. Louis, MO police on December 29, 1996. After being first questioned by police about her involvement in the escape Butler checked herself into a psychiatric facility.
FL: Four former sheriffs are currently serving time in federal prisons, the most in state history. In 1993 Hendry county sheriff Earl Dyess was sentenced to 17 years in prison for smuggling 8,000 kilos of cocaine. In 1993 Nassau county sheriff Lawrence Ellis was sentenced to 16 years for selling cocaine and marijuana out of the department's evidence room. In 1995 Gulf County sheriff Al Harrison was sentenced to 51 months for coercing sex from female prisoners. In 1995 Baker county sheriff Joe Newmans was sentenced to five years in prison for obstructing justice by protecting marijuana growers.
FL: On January 17, 1997, Glades Correctional Institution financial assistant Bruce Van Winkle admitted to stealing $9,000 in funds he was entrusted to deposit. Van Winkle resigned and agreed to return the money. A DOC investigation into the loss of bank receipts was underway.
GA: On February 27, 1997, John Becker drove a trailer rig that forced a van full of state prison guards onto the highway median near Tifton where it struck a culvert and was then hit by a tractor trailer. The guards were returning to Columbia from a DOC training program in Valdosta. Killed in the accident were guards Wayne Griglen, Carlton Cherry, Eddie Davis and sergeant Tommy Goggins. Eight other guards in the van were injured. Becker was charged with four counts of vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.
KS: In the first week of January, 1997, federal police intercepted, and disarmed, three letter bombs addressed to the prison parole office at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. All three letters originated in Alexandria, Egypt.
MS: On February 22, 1997, while Eric Snow was being driven to the penitentiary in Parchman to begin serving a 40 year sentence manslaughter, he pulled a pistol and shot and killed the two deputies escorting him to prison. Snow escaped but was recaptured nine hours later after a large-scale search by police.
OH: At least nine Ohio DOC employees have recently been fired and eight have resigned for falsifying their educational backgrounds when applying for their DOC job or seeking promotions once hired. Most employees lied about having college degrees when they had none, others inflated the degrees they had to Master's or Ph.d's. Some of the employees have been charged with the first degree misdemeanor of falsifying government records. OH DOC spokesman Joe Andrews said "We don't want folks lying to us on their applications. It goes towards a person's integrity. If they lie about this, will they lie about something else."
Palestine: On February 7, 1997, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that all female prisoners held by Israel would be released. Out of 5,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons only 25 are women. Prior to the announcement some of the women prisoners had been pardoned but they refused to leave the prison unless their comrades were released as well.
TX: In November, 1996, Travis county judge Wilfred Aguilar was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) after police found him passed out on the trunk of his running car. Aguilar smelled heavily of alcohol when arrested by police on public intoxication charges. Aguilar's court duties consist mainly of hearing DWI cases.
TX: On January 7, 1997, a Tarrant County (Dallas) judge ruled that jail prisoners in Ft. Worth would be allowed to live in the "god pod," a section of the jail where prisoners have access to religious TV and outside ministry volunteers. The ruling came in a suit filed by the ACLU and the American Jewish Congress who claimed the program violates the rights of non Christian prisoners who are not provided with any programs or services. The jail argued the program was voluntary. The project is operated by Prison Chaplains, a private group. The plaintiffs are appealing.
TX: On October 30, 1996, 96 Utah prisoners at the Dove Development corporation run Frio County jail in Pearsall were returned to Utah after more than a year of Texas exile. In September, 1996, 31 of the prisoners had rioted at the jail, breaking windows and tearing out light fixtures. In the 13 months of exile, 8 prisoners managed to escape from the jail. The private prison said future prisoners would be given a "very, very stringent screening process" to ensure no "troublemakers" were sent there.
WA: State senator Joe Zarelli, R-Vancouver, vice chair of the senate Human Services and Corrections committee, in 1996 blamed his 1983 arrest for driving with a suspended license and cocaine possession on police lies, brutality and bigotry. Zarelli is now busy supporting efforts to build a state monument to honor killed cops and denies he is trying to curry favor with police and polish his image.
WA: On November 19, 1996, Anthony Crane, a prisoner at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla, suffered numerous head wounds and a broken arm after being assaulted by another prisoner with a hammer at the metals plant in the prison industries building. The assailant, unidentified by media, turned himself in to prison staff and handed over the hammer.
WI: On February 10, 1997, Green Bay Correctional Institution guard Eric Berndt was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver after buying 8 ounces of marijuana from an undercover cop. The arrest came as part of an investigation into drug trafficking at the prison. Berndt was suspended with pay pending resolution of the charges against him.
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