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News in Brief

Alabama: On September 2, 2003, Cedric Bothwell, 39, a guard at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of selling marijuana to prisoners at the facility. Prosecutors dropped four other charges related to Bothwell's alleged crack cocaine smuggling to prisoners and extorting prisoners for drug money. In July, 2003, John Floyd, Bothwell's former lawyer in the case was convicted of witness tampering for his role in the case.

Arkansas: On October 9, 2003, Saline County jail guards Todd McEven, 32, John Hood, 22, and Christopher Carmen, 21, were arrested and charged with introducing contraband to the jail. McEven and Hood were also charged with theft. The guards are accused of stealing money from the prisoner personal property locker, used to hold prisoners' possessions while they are in custody. "They then went to a convenience store and purchased alcohol," which they returned to the jail and drank, said jail lieutenant Jim Andrews. Saline county judge J.R. Walters expressed concerns about the county's liability. "What if something happened? They were throwing a party when they should have been watching" prisoners, Walters said.

Arkansas: On September 24, 2003, Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services agent Curtis Hall was arrested by Springdale police and charged with raping a female Turkish immigrant detainee he had escorted to a medical appointment, then taken to a motel and raped.

California: On August 22, 2003, Carlos Rodarte, 34, a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin was sentenced to six months in prison and three months of home detention for sexually assaulting two female prisoners in his custody in January, 2002, and then lying about it to investigators.

Colorado: On October 9, 2003, Jody Aguirre, 40, escaped from the medium security Buena Vista Correctional Facility by hiding in a horse trailer full of prisoner made saddles and bolting when the trailer arrived in downtown Denver. Aguirre was captured by a SWAT team a day later. Aguirre is serving a sentence of life without parole, plus 16 years, for the 1993 death of a fireman in an arson blaze he allegedly masterminded.

Connecticut: Saul Dos Reis, Jr., 25, a Connecticut prisoner serving a 30 year sentence for raping and killing a 13 year old girl he met on the Internet, recently set up an ad on an Internet pen pal site. "I am very good at telling stories which can and will have you shiver," his ad says. Whether those stories involve the rape and murder of people who respond to such ads is unknown. Lieutenant governor Jodi Rell wrote the Connecticut DOC: "Quite frankly, the irony of the situation is mind boggling and appalling." In response, Connecticut prison officials said they would pay more attention to Internet pen pal mail even though Dos Reis is serving his sentence in a federal prison in Rhode Island.

Florida: On September 9, 2003, the US Marshall's service removed all federal prisoners from the Dixie county jail in Cross City after an unidentified prisoner told a federal judge in open court in Gainesville that he had been drinking in the jail. State officials are investigating charges of contraband in the jail and claims that a female jail guard had sex with prisoners.

Georgia: On September 29, 2003, Bennett Weinberg, 57, a prisoner at the Rutledge State Prison near Columbus was killed when prisoners Michael Snead, 22, and James Talley, 21, pushed him over a second floor railing with a noose made out of a sheet around his neck. Prison officials had initially classified the death as a suicide until Snead and Talley confessed to the murder. Weinberg was serving a three year sentence for theft by taking.

Illinois: On September IS, 2003, Beau Hansen, 30, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of controlled substance with intent to distribute. Prosecutors dropped 11 other charges in exchange for the plea. Cassandra Cooper, 32, a non prisoner, was also charged with bringing cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines to the prison over a two year period with Hansen. She was scheduled to go to trial. Prosecutors claim Cooper would give the drugs to an unidentified BOP staff person to smuggle into the prison. Prisoners would send money to a post office box opened by the staff person at Hansen's direction. In April, 2002, Leann Serrano, 36, a nurse at the prison, was arrested and pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into the prison after buying two ounces of cocaine from an undercover agent. Her connection to Hansen is unknown.

Massachusetts: On July 17, 2003, Jose Concepcion Benzor Espinoza, 38, a mentally ill immigrant prisoner undergoing a mental evaluation at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, blinded himself by gouging his eyeballs out. Benzor, who is illiterate and has the mental capacity of an 8 year old with serious learning disabilities, had been deported to Mexico after a 1994 manslaughter conviction for stabbing a nephew to death after an argument over the volume of a television. He returned to the U.S. illegally (which speaks volumes for border security) and was sent to the Bureau of Prisons operated facility when his public defender requested a competency evaluation after Benzor was charged with illegal reentry to the U.S. Benzor has a lengthy history of serious mental illness. BOP officials could not tell his family or Mexican government officials how he was allowed to mutilate himself while in a psychotic state which he was supposedly being treated for.

Massachusetts: On October 12, 2003, John McIntyre, a convicted child rapist, escaped from the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater, a DOC operated prison for sex offenders, by scaling an 18 foot perimeter fence. McIntyre, imprisoned at the facility since 1986, was recaptured 33 hours later after hiding in nearby woods. DOC officials claim McIntyre escaped because guards on duty ignored motion sensor alarms that detected his escape. Guard union officials claim no guard is responsible.

Montana: Jimmy Bromgard, 34, spent 15 years in prison for raping an eight year old girl before he was exonerated and freed by DNA testing in 2002. The legislature had promised to provide a free college education to falsely imprisoned people like Bromgard who were later exonerated. The 2003 legislature duly passed the free education law, but failed to fund it, making it, at best, an empty promise, at worst, a cruel fraud. Bromgard learned the bill was not funded when he registered for classes at Montana State University.

Nebraska: On August 13, 2003, Byron Johnson, 25, escaped from a sheriff's cruiser in the parking lot of the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln by using a key to unlock his handcuffs and leg irons. Johnson then ran to a waiting, empty get away car that belonged to his girlfriend and drove off. Deputies escorting Johnson had left their guns inside the car when they let Johnson out of it. Johnson had just been sentenced to 22 years in prison for armed robbery. Johnson had previous escape convictions, including one getaway that lasted 17 minutes. It appears he will soon have another as he was recaptured two days later when he tried to obtain a gun by telling the would be gun sellers he was a prison escapee. When asked to prove it, Johnson showed them a newspaper with his picture in it. They duly alerted police. Upon his capture, Nebraska State Patrol Lieutenant Mark Funkhouser commented, "We're clearly not dealing with Harry Houdini here." Which doesn't say much for those who allowed him to escape in the first place.

New York: On July 7, 2003, Timothy Vail, 35, and Timothy Morgan, 26, escaped from the maximum security Elmira Correctional Facility by using a sledgehammer to break into the ceiling of a cellblock, crawl into a ventilation duct, onto the roof and then used sheets to make a ladder to climb down the four story building. Both men were serving sentences for first degree murder. Vail for the 1988 rape murder of an 8 month pregnant legal secretary; Morgan for the 1998 robbery murder of a cab driver. Prison officials stated the men stole the sledgehammer from a construction project inside the prison, but did not comment on why no staff observed the men smashing the cell block ceiling. Vail and Morgan were later recaptured.

Ohio: On August 26, 2003, Franklin county jail guard Mark Jamison, 42, was indicted by a Franklin County grand jury on felony counts of kidnapping, sexual battery and sexual imposition for allegedly groping a female prisoner and forcing her to perform oral sex on him on June 18, 2003, while he was supervising four female prisoners cleaning the jail.

Oregon: On September 2, 2003, prisoner David Polin, 31, was stabbed and beaten to death in the activities area of the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem. Polin had been serving a 15 year sentence for a 1996 attempted murder conviction that left a gang rival, Oscar Ortega Ortiz, paralyzed. Polin's murder is under investigation.

Russia: On October 24, 2003, 23 prisoners performed in a Moscow concert hall, singing and dancing for their freedom. In a bizarre prison amnesty program, in 2002 the Russian Justice Ministry announced it would free six prisoners who sang and danced the best. Over 800 of Russia's one million prisoners submitted demo tapes. Judges selected 23 for the concert hall semi-finals, of which six would win their freedom. The other 17 were returned to prison with a television as a consolation prize. Prisoners could not sing about prison conditions or reveal their crimes. No one was excluded from the contest. Over 1,000 people, mostly friends and relatives of the prisoners, viewed the performance, hoping one of their loved ones would be among the six released.

South Carolina: On June 10, 2003, Charleston police charged Michael Mosley, 37, with petty larceny and obtaining property by false pretenses. Mosley, a janitor in a downtown office building, stole outgoing mail from the Make a Wish Foundation, a charity that helps children with fatal illnesses, and dumped the contents, reused the envelopes to solicit prisoners in the local jail to send him $200 to supposedly help them with the criminal charges against them. Mosley is also accused of using another non profit's photocopier to reproduce his materials and he also stole the name of The Justice Project as the name of his venture. Prisoners who received the mail in the obviously reused envelopes reported the solicitation to police. Mosley told a judge: "It was not my intent to do anything wrong. This is one device, along with going to work every day and staying close to god, to help me stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, I did some stupid things." Mosley has previously been convicted of robbery, fraud, obtaining goods by false pretenses and shoplifting.

Tennessee: On October 27, 2003, Sullivan County jail prisoners Brian Morrell, Donald Joiner, Jeff Begley, Josh Mosley, Joseph Samples, Rodney Gilvert, James Reynolds and George Simpson, escaped from the jail in Blountsville by crawling to the roof through an air duct, then tying their uniforms together into a ladder and climbing to the ground in their underwear where they stole a pick up truck and crashed it through a fence to escape. Sheriff Wayne Anderson said the escapees apparently didn't know what to do once outside in 30 degree weather in just their underwear. All of the escapees were recaptured by November 1, 2003. They had been awaiting trial on charges ranging from drunk driving to attempted murder.

Texas: In June, 2003, Dimmitt County jail guard Jason Bergara and Leonardo Mendez and jail prisoners Juan Balderas and Roel Pichardo were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. Prisoners Danny Davila and George Titsworth were charged with possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. The charges were the result of a six month investigation by Texas Rangers into drug trafficking at the jail after police found a bag of marijuana inside a guard's car.

Texas: On August 5, 2003, San Antonio jail guard David Higginbotham, 42, was convicted by a federal jury of one count of attempting to possess heroin with intent to distribute. Higginbotham was arrested in a sting operation where a policeman posing as a gang member gave him 150 grams of brown sugar he claimed was heroin and $500 to smuggle it into the jail. Informants had alerted jail officials that Higginbotham was smuggling drugs and contraband into the Wackenhut operated jail.

Texas: On July 3, 2003, 617 prisoners at the Darrington prison unit near Houston were infected with Salmonella food poisoning. State health inspectors believe the culprit was spoiled mayonnaise used to prepare pea salad. No staff members were afflicted even though they purportedly eat the same food. No serious injuries were reported.

Texas: On October 9, 2003, former McLennan County jail guard Benny Garrett, 25, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges for giving Waco jail prisoner Sherman Fields a jail key which allowed Fields to escape in November, 2001. Seven hours after escaping from the jail, Fields killed his girlfriend and now faces capital murder charges in her death. The jail is run under contract by private, for profit Civigenics, which employed Garrett.

Texas: On September 5, 2003, a Bowie County jury convicted Barry Telford Unit prisoner Jeffrey Boone, 40, of assaulting a guard in 2001. The same jury sentenced Boone to 85 years in prison for the assault, to be served after he completes his current 75 year sentence for aggravated robbery and attempted murder.

Texas: On September 9, 2003, a Harris County jury convicted Manuel Vera, 23, a guard at the Harris county boot camp, of misdemeanor official oppression for roughing up a prisoner and plunging his head into a toilet. On September 10, 2003, district judge George Godwin sentenced Vera to two years probation, a $1,000 fine and 10 weekends of cleaning toilets at the boot camp. Prosecutor Vic Wisner said Vera lifted the 100 pound, five foot tall prisoner, "slammed him into a wall, kicked him, stuck his head in the toilet and flushed it."

Virginia: In July, 2003, William Green, 38, a guard at the Haynesville Correctional Center in Warsaw, was charged with robbing three banks, one of them twice. Police arrested Green after bystanders described him, his truck and license plate. Green confessed to the robberies and police recovered some of the stolen money from his truck.

Virginia: On July 23, 2003, Fairfax County sheriff's deputy Chris Stover, 44, was charged with twice having sex with an unidentified 22 year old female prisoner he was supervising in the Fairfax county jail's work release section. Stover retired from the sheriff's office shortly before being charged. Like most states, Virginia bans sex between employees and prisoners.

Virginia: On June 10, 2003, David Smith, warden of the Pulaski Correctional Unit for 25 years until he resigned in April, 2003, was charged by a Radford grand jury with 52 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and 52 counts of misrepresentation in a commercial dealing with the state. Prosecutors claim Smith received a housing allowance from the Virginia Department of Corrections to pay a lease on a home he already owned.

Washington: In July, 2003, Hugh Berry, a federal prosecutor and former King County prosecutor in Seattle was arrested by local police for allegedly "rubbing his crotch against a woman on a metro bus." On November 4, 2003, he was charged with misdemeanor assault and unlawful bus conduct by Seattle prosecutors. Berry faces up to a year in jail if convicted. He resigned as federal prosecutor effective November 30, 2003.

Washington: On May 21, 2003, Terrence Gardner, 35, was released from prison after being granted clemency by governor Gary Locke. Gardner had been serving a sentence of 24 years, three months and 15 days after being convicted in Kitsap county of first degree felony murder in the 1992 stabbing death of drug dealer Michael Osborne. Gardner was convicted at trial based on the testimony of co-defendant Gerald "Sonny" Belgard who turned state's evidence and received the same sentence as Gardner, despite a lengthy criminal history and evidence that he actually committed the murder. Gardner was released from prison 10 years earlier than he otherwise would have been and now lives and works in Tacoma.

Wisconsin: On August 19, 2003, Milwaukee county jail guards Joseph Bub, 30, and Jason Lipski, 22, were charged in federal court with accepting $2,000 from a prisoner informant in exchange for releasing him from the Community Correctional Center and putting him on an electronic monitoring program. The FBI recorded incriminating conversations on video and audio tape between the guards and the informant. Both guards resigned and agreed to plead guilty to the charges.

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