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News in Brief
FL: In March, 1997, Ft. Myers jail prisoner Gregory Williamson walked out of jail after his girlfriend faxed a fake letter from Pennsylvania's governor to jail officials claiming Williamson had been pardoned. The ruse was not discovered until PA officials arrived to extradite Williamson. Williamson was arrested a week later when he tried the same trick to free his former cellmate.
GA: On March 17, 1997, Clayton county jail prisoners Venteris Hobson, Raychel Cosden and Robert Peppers escaped by climbing to the jail roof through a plumbing chase. Designed to hold 480 prisoners, the jail holds more than 1,000 and is the subject of a class action lawsuit challenging inhumane conditions of confinement.
IL: U.S. congressman Henry Hyde, chair of the House judiciary committee, has denied all responsibility for the 1990 collapse of the savings and loan on whose board he sat for three years. Hyde refused to help his 11 codefendants pay $850,000 to settle the government's lawsuit over the bank's $67 million collapse. After the others settled and the suit was dismissed, Hyde began fundraising to help pay his $70,000 in legal bills in the case. Hyde's defense fund chairman, Chicago lawyer Jeremiah Marsh, helpfully tells would be donors that "lobbyists may not contribute, but their family members and employers may."
KY: On April 14, 1997, Scott Rose filed suit against Blockbuster video after he was arrested and jailed for allegedly failing to return a video tape he had already returned to the store. Rose was arrested after he had responded to a letter from Blockbuster claiming the tape was overdue and he was told it was a "mistake" that had been resolved. The video in question was "Ernest Goes to Jail."
NC: On May 7, 1997, a Winston-Salem jury sentenced Thomas Jones to life in prison without parole for killing two college students and injuring four others when he crashed his car into theirs while drunk driving. Prosecutors had sought the death penalty.
NJ: On May 1, 1997, 200 prisoners at the Northern State Prison attacked guards in the prison dining hall with metal food trays and soda cans in socks. Fifteen guards were injured. The attack was described by prison officials as "retaliation for the punishment of another prisoner."
PA: On April 21, 1997, federal judge Stewart Dalzell ordered the immediate release of Lisa Lambert, finding she was the victim of a prosecution conspiracy packed with police perjury, evidence fabrication and the suppression of exculpatory evidence by Lancaster county district attorney John Kenneff. Lambert was convicted in 1991, when she was 19, of first degree murder in an alleged love triangle killing. Judge Dalzell found Lambert was actually innocent of the crime and forwarded his ruling to the U.S. prosecutor's office in Philadelphia for investigation. The prosecution had sought the death penalty in the case.
TX: Houston judge Werner Voigt shot and killed Ronnie Tucker, a black mentally ill homeless man on April 29, 1997, while Tucker was beating him. Tucker had just stolen a briefcase from attorney Vidal Ramirez who in turn asked Voigt for help. Voigt had twice before sentenced Tucker on criminal charges in his courtroom and asked Tucker to return the briefcase. Tucker attacked the 61 year old disabled judge, breaking his nose, when Voigt shot him three times with a licensed 9mm pistol he carried.
TX: In April, 1997, the attorney generals office settled a lawsuit with French Robertson Unit prisoners Warden Drewry and Edwin Ray for $500. The prisoners claimed they had been beaten, verbally abused and raped with a broomstick while chained to a fence by prison guards Rebecca Dalton and James McGonagill. Dalton was later fired and McGonagill resigned after the prisoners complained of the July, 1994 incident.
WA: Federal judge Alan McDonald of Spokane has asked the U.S. department of justice to represent him in a lawsuit filed by former court reporter Kathryn Blankenship who claimed McDonald forced her to work for his private real estate business on court time; that he passed sexist and racist notes about people appearing in his court to his law clerk; that he altered court documents and that she was fired for testifying in a coworker's lawsuit. James Larsen, the court clerk and also a defendant in the suit, said Blankenship was fired for poor work performance.
WA: In April, 1997, a federal jury in Seattle awarded Bellingham newsstand owner Ira Stohl and store manager Kristina Hjelsand $1.3 million in damages. The largest civil rights award in state history according to their lawyer, PLN supporter Tim Ford. Whatcom county officials prosecuted Stohl and Hjelsand on obscenity charges after they displayed the magazine "Answer Me," which discussed rape. A state jury acquitted both. The federal jury awarded each plaintiff $50,000 for prior restraint and $768,169 to Stohl and $428,484 to Hjelsand for retaliatory prosecution.
WA: In April, 1997, the Judicial Conduct Commission reprimanded state supreme court justice Richard Sanders for giving a brief speech at an anti abortion rally in 1996. The Commission held Sanders had aligned himself with a political agenda when he spoke at the rally and this violated judicial ethics. Represented by the ACLU, Sanders is appealing the ruling in court claiming it violates his free speech rights.
WA: Lewis County sheriff John McCroskey announced in April, 1997, that county jail prisoners would be served military surplus "Meals, Ready to Eat" twice a week for a year as a cost cutting "get tough" measure. McCroskey claims he can feed all 170 jail prisoners for $20 per meal with MRE's. McCroskey has already eliminated salt, pepper, margarine, coffee, television and newspapers at the jail.
WA: On May 23, 1997, former Snohomish county deputy prosecutor Eric Lind was sentenced to five months in federal prison for forging the signature of Tacoma federal judge Robert Bryan on documents he used to fraudulently bill clients. Earlier this year Lind pleaded guilty in state court to five charges of first degree theft for stealing $44,521 in "bonuses" from his law firm. Lind was in private practice when these crimes were discovered.
WA: On May 7, 1997, Clallam County jail guard Stan Friese was charged in Clallam County superior court with bringing marijuana into the jail and giving it to an unidentified female prisoner in exchange for sex.
WA: On May 8, 1997, a Thurston county superior court jury awarded former DOC guard Kathleen Lane $72,500 in damages for being subjected to a hostile work environment. Lane will also receive $217,500 in attorney fees and costs. Lane proved that while employed at the Special Offender's Center in Monroe she was raped while off duty by a fellow guard and was forced to work the same shift as her attacker. After transferring to the Indian Ridge prison she was harassed by her superiors who made sexually explicit remarks and taunted her about the rape.
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