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Colorado Prisoner Acquitted of Kidnapping

Colorado state prisoner William Sojka may have had a "fool for an attorney" (he represented himself at trial). But a jury did acquit him of kidnapping, attempted murder and assault charges for allegedly taking guard Mary Henderson hostage, shocking her with an electrical cord and threatening to kill her at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in 1992.

Sojka said he and Henderson staged the kidnapping so she could sue the prison system. Then, Sojka told the jury, he and Henderson plotted to have him plead insanity, spend a short time in the state mental hospital and finally split the proceeds from the lawsuit upon his release.

Sojka did indeed plead insanity at a 1994 trial but was found guilty nonetheless. And Henderson did file a suit against the prison system, claiming officials had been warned a kidnapping would take place, but the suit was eventually dropped. She also joined another guard's lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, but eventually withdrew from that suit, too.

Sojka won a second trial after he presented new evidence: a love letter he says Henderson wrote him, in which "Mary" says she loves "Bill" and is sorry she can't tell the truth about the kidnapping. Two handwriting experts testified in Sojka's second trial that Henderson wrote the letter. Henderson denied that any inappropriate relationship with Sojka had existed and called the letter an elaborate forgery.

During closing arguments, both prosecutors and Sojka told the jury that the case boiled down to whether jurors should believe Henderson or him.

The verdict meant that Sojka would be a free man within weeks. He had been serving a 12-year sentence for burglary. He says that Henderson didn't come away empty handed either, noting that she collected about $180,000 in worker's compensation payments since the incident. Half came from a settlement and the other half was for lost wages and permanent disability.

Soika didn't say whether he expected Henderson to split her worker's compensation booty with him. Presumably their love affair was soured after she left him holding the bag and then testified against him.

The Chieftain (Pueblo, Co.)

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