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News in Brief

Arizona: Protesting the seizure of property sold to them by the prison but which does not meet current prison property rules, on November 18, 2002, hundreds of prisoners at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence started fires from electrical outlets in their cells and threw burning items outside their cells. The prison was placed on lockdown and no serious injuries were reported. The state prison system has announced plans to confiscate all prisoner property which does not meet current policy standards.

California: On December 12, 2002, a riot between Southern Mexican and black prisoners in the dining hall of the Folsom State Prison involved over 100 prisoners and lasted about five minutes before ending when a prison guard shot an unidentified prisoner in the buttocks. Guards also used pepper spray and rubber batons on the rioting prisoners. Black and Hispanic prisoners were placed on an indefinite lockdown based on their race while prison officials investigate. The riot occurred in the medium security portion of the prison.

California: On January 6, 2003, Kevin Joseph Martino, 43, a guard at the San Quentin State Prison, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for holding a man on the ground while two female companions, Kay Cash. 52, and her daughter Cherith Buck, beat and kicked the victim.

District of Columbia: In January, 2003, Dominic Jones, 21, was charged with fatally stabbing Givon Pendleton, 24, on December 11, 2002, while both men were confined in the DC jail. Jones was dispensing milk and Pendleton apparently took some, leading to a fight between the two men. Pendleton was stabbed nine times. Jones, already awaiting trial on two charges of first degree murder, was charged with first degree murder in Pendleton's death.

El Salvador: On December 16, 2002, prisoners at La Esperanza prison near San Salvador rioted to protest the transfer of 40 prisoners so their cells could be inspected. The riot left two guards dead and two more taken hostage. The hostages were later released unharmed when police stormed the prison to regain control.

Georgia: On December 17, 2002, Velverly Arnold, 41, and Shirley Billinger, 61, a cook and the kitchen manager, respectively, of the Douglas County jail, were charged with one count of sexual assault for having sex with male jail prisoners. Arnold was caught having sex in a storage room with a male prisoner by a jail sergeant. Billinger was accused of having sex with a kitchen trusty for a two month period.

New York: Beginning in March, 2003, New York City's jail system, one of the nation's largest with over 20,000 prisoners, will ban smoking on jail property as it implements anti smoking legislation signed earlier in the year by mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Puerto Rico: On December 30, 2002, a hijacked helicopter flew into the Las Cucharas maximum security prison in Ponce and took off with five prisoners and then dropped them off in central Puerto Rico. The escapees included Jose Perez Rodriguez and Orlando Valdes Cartagena. All the prisoners were serving lengthy sentences. Four of the prisoners were later recaptured.

Vermont: On August 8, 2002, the state supreme court suspended Burlington criminal defense lawyer Robert Andres, 48, from the practice of law. In April, 2002, Andres was convicted of assaulting a wheelchair bound man in a local bar and spitting in his face. Andres had two prior assault convictions and one for disorderly conduct. District judge Katz referred to Andres as "an angry drunk" and sentenced him to three months in jail. The sentence was suspended while he appealed provided Andres abstained from drinking alcohol and going to bars. Police found Andres in a bar drinking beer in June, leading to a revocation of the suspended sentence on August 8 as well.

Vermont: On January 6, 2003, Chris Bartie, 21, a guard at the Caledonia County Work Camp was arrested by state police on charges that he accepted $300 to smuggle morphine sulfate and syringes to a camp prisoner.

Virginia: On December 17, 2002, prisoners Carlton Weaver, 23, and Forrest Fisher, 26, attempted to escape from the Red Onion State Prison by climbing onto a building while returning from recreation. They were quickly spotted by guards who fired rubber pellets at them from a shotgun. The two were quickly captured.

Virginia: On December 20, 2002, Olivia Hall, 27, was charged with two felony counts of delivering drugs by stuffing unspecified drugs into the binding of bibles and trying to smuggle them into the Montgomery county jail.

Washington: An August, 2004, trial date was set by the Thurston County superior court in an insurance fraud lawsuit filed by Mutual of Omaha and New World Life Insurance against John and Melanie Lowrance. John is a guard at the McNeil Island Corrections Center in Steilacoom. The insurance companies claim that the Lowrances adopted nine year old Shawn Lowrance in 1998, bought $650,000 in life insurance for the child and then murdered him on October 9, 1999, to collect the proceeds. Shawn died while on a fishing trip with John and another child. An autopsy disclosed head injuries and drowning as the cause of death. Mason county police continue investigating Shawn's death as a homicide. Five days after Shawn's death the Lowrances tried to collect on the insurance policy. The insurance companies claim the Lowrances were in financial distress at the time. The Lowrances deny the charges and have filed a counter suit alleging violations of state law in the refusal to pay on the insurance policy. No one has questioned the propriety of an insurance agent selling $650,000 worth of life insurance for a nine year old child.

Washington: Effective January 1, 2003, Yakima County superior court judge Heather Van Nuys was suspended without pay for 60 days by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. The Commission found that Van Nuys had lied when she signed 55 affidavits declaring she had not unduly delayed any of the cases on her docket, when in fact she had, in some cases for several years. Yakima county requires judges to sign such affidavits in order to be paid. Van Nuys did not dispute lying on the affidavits, she claimed she was distracted by issues at home. She agreed to the suspension.

Washington: In early February, 2003, Joseph Lehman Jr., the son of Washington Department of Corrections secretary Joseph Lehman, was charged in King county superior court with two counts of first degree child rape stemming from his sexual assault of his two month old baby daughter on December 6, 2002. The baby's mother, his fiancee, witnessed the assault and reported it to police. Lehman Jr. was released on $50,000 bail to the supervision of his mother. While being interviewed by King county police in this child rape, he confessed to raping a 9 year old girl in Maine in 1997. Lehman Sr. had previously been secretary of that state's prison system before returning to Washington. Washington police said they had forwarded that information to police in Maine. In 1989 Lehman Jr. was convicted of masterminding the robbery of an armored car in Tacoma. Lehman Sr. declined to comment on the charges against his son.

Washington: On January 14, 2003, Franget Vargas, 29, a former King County (Seattle) jail guard was charged with rape and extortion. An unidentified 19 year old prostitute informed police that Vargas picked her up alongside a highway, negotiated a sex act for a price, then claimed to be a police officer. Vargas then took $275 from the woman and demanded oral sex in order to "let her go." She complied. The prostitute was later arrested by the real police on prostitution charges and told them she had no money to give them. When questioned, she related her experience with Vargas. Vargas was identified by a jail commander who recognized him from a police sketch. Vargas was terminated by the jail on April 29, 2002, for failing to meet state physical agility standards.

Washington: Senior Ninth Circuit federal appeals court judge Jerome Farris, 72, agreed in January, 2003, to pay the city of Seattle $500,000 after he illegally cut down 120 trees in a city park that were obstructing his views from his home. The settlement was an alternative to misdemeanor charges after county prosecutor Norm Maleng declined to file felony charges over the illegal tree cutting. The money will be used to help restore the park. Farris denied and wrongdoing and claimed the tree cutting was a misunderstanding between himself and his landscaper.

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