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News in Brief

Alabama: In May, 2004, Gail Munnerlyn sued the Alabama Department of Corrections for its practice of allowing uninsured prisoners to drive DOC vehicles. Munnerlyn was injured when her car was struck by a DOC work release van driven by an uninsured prisoner. Her attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, said "I believe that legally, morally, and from a public safety standpoint, convicts should not be allowed to drive without insurance. Apparently [DOC] commissioner Campbell believes that it is okay. But that's what they built the courthouse for." A DOC spokesman said the decision not to insure prisoner drivers was made by the state Department of Finance, not the DOC.

Alabama: On August 17, 2004, Clint Morris, 20, a prisoner at the Shelby county jail who was injured in a fight at the jail on July 18, 2004, died from injuries he sustained in the fight. After the fight Morris complained of pain and swelling in his neck before being taken to a hospital on July 25, where he eventually died. Morris was in jail awaiting trial on charges that he failed to appear for various traffic violations. His family questioned the apparent denial of medical care.

Arizona: On August 17, 2004, Michael Hollingsworth, 49, a former guard at the Yavapai county juvenile detention facility pleaded guilty to two felony charges, one for child prostitution and one for soliciting a bribe. On June 17, 2004, while working as a guard, Hollingsworth offered a 17 year old female prisoner candy, cigarettes and soda pop if she would expose her breasts to him. He also pleaded guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor in a separate incident involving two other prisoners. Prosecutors said they would seek probation and that Hollingsworth would not have to register as a sex offender.

Arkansas: On July 7, 2004, Saline county jail guards John Hood, 22, Christopher Carman, 21, and Michael McEuen, 32, pleaded guilty to stealing money from the property of jail prisoners (about $14 in cash) and drinking beer with jail prisoner Jason Basham who was awaiting trial on charges of rape, domestic battery, terrorist threatening and escaping from the jail in 2002. McEuen, the jail supervisor at the time of the incidents, was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 5 years of probation and a $10,000 fine, Hood and Carman were sentenced to 10 days in jail, three years of felony probation and fined $5,000.

Arkansas: On September 16, 2004, former Independence county prosecutor T.J. Hively was sentenced to three years in federal prison and $430,000 in restitution. In his capacity as prosecutor Hively was convicted of stealing $430,000 from the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Australia: State opposition spokesman Andrew Humpherson claims that prisons in New South Wales "&are more like a holiday farm than a prison system." As evidence, Humpherson claimed that contraband found in the province's prisons in the past year include 55 homemade knives, a whopping 33.4 grams of marijuana, 46 other drug confiscations, a 40 centimeter tall marijuana plant and four poisonous redback spiders kept as pets who were milked for their venom which the prisoners would then allegedly water down and inject in order to get high. Humpherson claims prison guards "&are either compromised or corrupted into getting these things in."

California: In September, 2004, former Los Angeles county prosecutor Julie Sergojan, 48, was charged with forging the signature of her ex husband, Paul Sergojan, also a Los Angeles County prosecutor, to borrow money on a parcel of land he owns in order to pay $200,000 restitution she owes after being convicted of fraud in 2003. Sergojan was charged with ten felony counts, pleaded guilty to four and was sentenced to one day in jail and five years of probation and paid the $200,000 in restitution to the banks whom she defrauded. Prosecutors now claim the 20 year prosecutor used the money stolen from her ex husband to pay the restitution in that case.

Cuba: In early September, 2004, James Cason, head of the U.S. Interests section in Havana built a model of a prison cell in his back yard of what he claims to be a Cuban prison cell, purportedly to criticize the Cuban government's human rights record. The six foot by three foot fake cell was made of wood and metal and featured a drain on the floor for use as a toilet, a plastic bowl of food, a sheet for a bed and a fake rat. Mr. Cason seems to have no such concerns about the plight of American prisoners held in the US. Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban parliament commented "What he should do is mount an exposition of the holding areas of the base at Guantanamo." The US currently holds hundreds of prisoners on its military base on Guantanamo in Cuba where the prisoners are routinely tortured and beaten and denied most human contact. Allegations not made against the Cuban government.

District of Columbia: On September 3, 2004, supreme court justice David Souter, 64, was attacked by two muggers while jogging. Souter suffered minor injuries and police believe he was a target of random violence.

Florida: On August 27, 2004, R. Steven Quesenberry, 60, a Florida Department of Corrections probation officer in Bradenton was arrested on charges that he raped and fondled a child under the age of 12.

Grenada: When Hurricane Ivan struck the island nation in early September, 2004, it largely demolished its crumbling 17th century prison. About 150 of the nation's 325 prisoners escaped during the storm that crumbled much of the prison's walls and tore off its roof. After the storm some turned themselves in but 75 had not. Bernard Coard and 15 other political prisoners who were convicted of murder for leading a coup attempt in 1983 that was the excuse used by the United States to invade the country, remained in the prison throughout the storm. Coard and his co-defendants are still appealing their convictions and sentences. "I'm only leaving here when my name is cleared and I get a court order," Coard told media after the storm.

Indiana: On September 15, 2004, Leo Deberry, 24, was sentenced to 6 years in prison after pleading guilty to escaping the Marion County Jail II in Indianapolis on June 7, 2004. The sentence is to run consecutively to the 14 year sentence he is serving for burglary and dealing cocaine. Deberry escaped from the jail by leaving a chapel service, entering a manger's office, prying open a metal gate over an outside window and climbing to the ground. Guards at the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) run jail did not notice the escape for 4 ½ hours. Deberry was recaptured 17 hours later. Deberry's lawyer, David Margerum, argued for a lenient sentence by noting Deberry had escaped while attending a church service.

Nebraska: In August, 2004, Darwin Sagel, 40, an employee of the Nebraska Work Ethic camp in McCook, was charged in Red Willow County Court of felony sexual assault of a prisoner and unlawful acts by a corrections employee. Prosecutors allege that Sagel sexually assaulted a female prisoner at the work camp.

Nebraska: On September 17, 2004, Douglas County prosecutors dismissed sexual assault charges against Bobby Burrell, 33, a former guard at the Omaha Correctional Center who was alleged to have raped a female prisoner at the facility in 1999. While Nebraska, like most states, criminalizes sex between prisoners and prison employees, this incident occurred before Nebraska passed its law criminalizing sex between prisoners and staff. Burrell admitted to having sex with the unidentified 42 year old prisoner but claimed it was consensual. Prosecutors dismissed the case mid trial when another guard, Dana Graham, stated the prisoner had offered him sex in exchange for use of the telephone on his shift, which preceded Burrell's on the day the alleged assault occurred. Burrell had been fired from his job as a guard while the charges were pending.

Texas: On September 20, 2004, Elias Ramirez Martinez, 20, escaped from the Brooks County Detention Center in Falfurrias by jumping over a ten foot electric fence. He was in jail after being accused of entering the United States illegally. The jail is operated by the private, for profit company LSC Corrections.

Virginia: On September 10, 2004, disbarred attorney Thomas Smolka, 57, was sentenced to six years in federal prison after being convicted of mail fraud charges stemming from defrauding prisoners and their families by claiming he would perform legal services for them in exchange for fees. He performed none of the services. Smolka also faces mail and bank fraud charges in Portland, Oregon, where he had gone after jumping bail and fleeing in the current case. Prosecutors claim that Smolka made false claims against the bankrupt Catholic diocese in Portland by claiming he had been sexually assaulted by a priest while growing up in Portland. Stating that six years was an insufficient sentence, U.S. District judge Robert Payne sentenced Smolka to 15 years in prison that goes into effect in the event the United States supreme court upholds current federal sentencing guidelines. Smolka was also ordered to pay his victims $130,000 in restitution. Judge Payne told Smolka "You are an embarrassment to the profession of law."

Washington: In September, 2004, former federal prosecutor Hugh Berry was acquitted by a King County District Court jury on two charges of felony fourth degree assault and bus misconduct stemming from allegations that he rubbed his pelvis against female bus passengers in Seattle. Perry faces two more trials on similar charges in the same court. Berry resigned his job as an assistant United States attorney shortly after being charged in November, 2003.

Washington: On September 17, 2004, Robert Gilleland, 27, a prisoner in the Snohomish county jail in Everett, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to sending president George Bush a letter threatening to kill the president if he was not moved from the jail. Gilleland has a lengthy history of serious mental illness and of criminal offenses as well. In court Gilleland apologized for sending the letter and noted he had recently stopped taking his mental health medications when he sent the letter.

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