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News in Brief

CT: In October, 1999, the state DOC announced it would send 900 prisoners to the Wallens Ridge State Prison in Virginia to relieve overcrowding. Wallens Ridge is a "super-max" prison that has been repeatedly cited for human and civil rights abuses by various human rights organizations.

FL: In October, 1999, Steven Manning, a guard at the Florida State Prison in Starke, was fired after being caught in a drug sting. An unidentified prisoner implicated Manning in an escape plot after prison officials discovered guard uniforms and weapons inside the prison. Cooperating with investigators, the prisoner gave Manning $300 in marked bills to smuggle marijuana into the prison for him. Manning was arrested as he left the prison and charged with possession of contraband in a correctional facility after the marked bills were found in his possession.

FL: On October 13, 1999, Broward circuit judge James Cohn held assistant state attorney Alberto Milian in contempt of court and fined him $500 and ordered him to pay $2,600 in court costs. Judge Cohn found that in August, 1999, Milian had assaulted criminal defense attorney Ty Terrell in a hallway outside the courtroom where the two men were trying a robbery case.

Terrell suffered a black eye after Milian punched him in the face and threw him over a coffee table. Milian claimed Terrell had bumped him in an elevator and kicked him in the shin. Eyewitnesses disputed that claim and judge Cohn found Terrell not guilty of contempt. Milian is appealing the ruling. The defendant in the case was acquitted by the jury.

GA: On October 6, 1999, Lumpkin county jail prisoners Frank Mack and Thomas Limly escaped from custody while doing legal research at the public library in Dahlonega. The jail lacks a law library. Prisoners representing themselves are taken to the public library to conduct legal research. Mack and Lumly, awaiting trial on drug and sex charges, respectively, asked to use the bathroom. Once inside they removed their leg shackles and emerged from the bathroom running, one was wearing only boxer shorts. The escapees fled the library and jumped into a pickup truck apparently left for them to use.

KY: In September, 1999, Crittenden county jail guard Francisco Barela, 22, was charged with misconduct and endangerment. When police arrived at the jail to check on a suspect they found prisoners were roaming freely throughout the facility and had cold beer, loaded firearms and an 18 year old woman in their cells.

MI: On October 28, 1999, Wayne county assistant prosecutor Michael Gruskin was suspended from his job, with pay. While attending a domestic violence conference in Sparks, Nevada, on October 25, 1999, Gruskin reported to police that a prostitute he had hired had robbed him of $500 and a watch.

OH: On August 12, 1999, Michael Fortner, a guard at the Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, was arrested after being caught smuggling marijuana in his shoe and waistband of his pants while going to work at the prison. The drugs were discovered by state police using drug dogs to conduct random checks at Ohio prisons.

TX: El Paso county judge Sue Karita has raised ethical questions about the judicial system under which court appointed, lawyers are paid a $50 bonus if they get their clients to plead guilty to misdemeanor offenses. Attorneys whose clients plead guilty are paid $150 per case. Attorneys whose clients have charges dismissed after pleading not guilty or who enter informal pleas of guilty in exchange for probation, are paid only $100 per case.

Judge Kurita has vowed to change the system by raising the fee paid to court appointed lawyers in misdemeanor cases to $150, regardless of the outcome. "The lawyers in this court do not sell their clients out, but we don't want anyone thinking that could happen," she told reporters.

WA: On October 27, 1999, Bellingham police released the results of an investigation stating that Whatcom county jail guard Ryan Stollwerck had sexually harassed female coworkers at the jail. Stollwerck's conduct included making unwanted sexual comments, responding angrily when one of the women wouldn't return his phone calls, "improperly touching" one of the women and making mock kissing noises. This comes on top of prior discipline for similar sexual harassment of jail employees. Stollwerck denied the charges and said they were part of a smear campaign against him. The report was released a week before an election in which Stollwerck was running for Whatcom county sheriff. He lost the election. He also quit his job as a jail guard.

WI: On October 28, 1999, Douglas Blahnik escaped from the Marathon county jail in Wausau by crawling through a ceiling panel in a jail shower. Blahnik was being held on various charges and warrants.

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