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News in Brief
California: In June, 2003, the Air Force confirmed it had stored nuclear weapons at the former Castle Air Force base which now houses the United State Penitentiary in Atwater. The prison houses 1,445 prisoners and is built on an Environmental Protection Agency super fund toxic waste site. The air force has spent $177 million to minimize the environmental hazards at the former base and plans to spend another $127 million before it pronounces the job completed. The nuclear weapons admission means that nuclear waste associated with the weapons are likely present on prison grounds which could also be harmful to the health of prisoners and staff alike. Dan Dunne, Bureau of Prisons spokesman, said the potential radioactive waste news "had no effect on our operations."
California: On July 3, 2003, the U.S Attorney's office announced it had filed misdemeanor assault charges against Richard Dale Morrison, 29, for allegedly assaulting fellow prisoner and former Taliban member John Walker Lindh, 22, in the chapel of the federal prison in Victorville where both are imprisoned. Lindh suffered minor injuries in the attack. If convicted, Morrison faces up to six months in prison. Prison officials say they have taken steps to safeguard Lindh's safety. Lindh is serving a 20 year sentence after pleading guilty to aiding the Taliban and agreeing to cooperate with government investigations into the Taliban and Al Qaida. The motive behind the assault has not been disclosed.
California: On June 1, 2003, a riot at the U.S. Penitentiary in Lompoc left four guards and two prisoners injured. Media reports did not include details of the incident because BOP officials would not respond to their calls and none apparently had any contact with prisoners at the facility.
England: On June 10, 2003, a British court overturned the 1949 conviction of George Kelly who had been convicted of shooting and killing a Liverpool theater manager in the course of a burglary. The conviction was reversed when the confession by the actual killer was found in police files. Apparently the confession was kept secret from Kelly and his lawyers at the time of his trial. The court action reversing the conviction came too late though. On March 28, 1950, Kelly was executed by hanging for the murder.
Florida: In February, 2003, Palm Beach county assistant state attorney Ira Karmelin put on a performance for viewers of Orlando's WFTV-Channel 9, believing he was in e mail contact with a 14 year old girl who wanted to have sex with him, when in reality it was a station producer of legal age and unspecified gender. Karmelin sat in front of his web cam and "stripped down to his bathrobe" and "performed lewd acts" for the camera. Karmelin has been charged with soliciting sex from a minor via the Internet and transmitting harmful images to a minor. Karmelin had also apparently been outspoken about his judicial ambitions. Which, presumably, have now suffered a setback.
Florida: On June 13, 2003, Matthew O'Kon, 26, a guard at the Sarasota jail was arrested on felony aggravated battery charges stemming from assaulting jail prisoner Gerrese Daniels on June 5, 2003. Daniels was allegedly arguing with another guard when O'Kon pulled him away and rammed him head first into a concrete wall, temporarily paralyzing him, and then dragging him to another cell. O'Kon told sheriff's department investigators that he attacked Daniels "Just to show him that he was wrong and I was right." O'Kon resigned from his job as a guard, which he had held since 1998, after being released on bond. Daniels is partly paralyzed as a result of the attack and is recovering in a hospital. Daniels was serving an 18 month sentence for eluding police when O'Kon attacked him.
Illinois: On June 27, 2003, criminal defense lawyer Barry Mattes, 49, was arrested while entering the Cook county jail in Chicago with a quarter pound of marijuana taped to his thighs so he could deliver it to his imprisoned clients. Mattes was arrested when a drug sniffing dog at the entrance of the jail barked at him as he was entering the jail. Mattes then consented to a more thorough search of his person. Mattes was charged with bringing contraband to a penal institution.
Louisiana: On July 9, 2003, Gus Green, 44, a trusty in the Avoyelles Parish jail in Marksville was arrested on charges of forcible rape and oral sexual battery. Police claim Green raped a 16 year old girl while he was working for the Marksville Fire Department as a jail trusty.
Michigan: On May 30, 2003, Jeffrey Russell, 45, a guard at the Southern Michigan Correctional Facility in Jackson since 1987 was charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of his wife Valerie, 38, on May 28. Russell called 911 and told the operator he had murdered his wife. When the operator asked him why, Russell replied "Well, she's a bitch. Come get me," and hung up. His wife, Valerie Russell, was a personnel management technician at the Cooper Street Correctional Facility also in Jackson. She had been a DOC employee since 1996. Jeffrey, according to charging papers, had a long history of alcoholism, substance abuse, drunk driving convictions and was prone to fits of rage. None of which, apparently, disqualified him from employment with the Michigan DOC. Morocco: On May 8, 2003, King Mohammed celebrated the birth of his first son and heir by ordering the release of more than 9,000 prisoners.
Nevada: On May 20, 2002, legislation was enacted requiring political candidates to swear they have never been convicted of a felony. The law was sponsored by assembly woman Ellen Koivisto who ran against an opponent in the 2002 election who had four criminal convictions.
New York: On June 16, 2003, Tarrytown Justice William Crosbie, 79, resigned after Anissa Khoder, 46, a Lebanese American, complained to the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct that Crosbie had accused her of being a terrorist when she appeared before him to contest a traffic ticket. Khoder went to court after receiving two tickets for the same parking violation within an hour. She believed only one was valid. Crosbie asked Khoder if she was a terrorist and then said "You have money to support the terrorists but you don't want to pay the ticket." Crosbie later said he was "probably kidding" about the remarks.
Ohio: On June 6, 2003, James Were, 46, was again sentenced to death by a Hamilton county jury after being convicted of kidnapping and two counts of aggravated murder in the death of prison guard Robert Valladingham and a prisoner during the 1993 Easter uprising at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Were had previously been convicted and sentenced to death in the murders but the Ohio supreme court reversed the conviction because of questions about Were's competency to stand trial. On remand he was found competent to stand trial despite claims he was mildly retarded.
Oklahoma: On May 21, 2003, Daniel Tidwell, 20, was arrested on charges of robbing a Tulsa business while armed with a gun. Tidwell had been employed since January, 2002, by the Corrections Corporation of America run Tulsa jail as a guard. CCA fired him after he was booked into the jail as a prisoner and could not post bond. It is unknown if he would have remained employed had he been able to post bond.
Tennessee: On June 4, 2003, Charles Sanderson, 42, was convicted of killing Tom Harris, 55, on July 11, 2001, when both men were imprisoned at the Corrections Corporation of America run South Central Correctional Facility in Clifton. Harris was strangled to death with a sock. A Maury county jury rejected the death penalty after hearing Sanderson was one of 11 children beaten by his father when he was a child. The jury's verdict left Sanderson sentenced to life without parole for the killing. Joel Schmeidere, 23, Sanderson's co-defendant, is scheduled for trial on November 10, 2003, for his role in Harris' death.
Texas: On June 6, 2003, a federal jury in Brownsville ordered Jose Luis Betancourt, 52, to forfeit $5.5 million he won in the state lottery to the federal government because he allegedly bought the wining lottery ticket with money he earned selling cocaine. The jury disbelieved Betancourt's account that he bought the winning ticket with money from selling old clothes. Betancourt was arrested on January 17, 2003, three days after collecting his lottery winnings, for selling 36 grams of cocaine to police.
Texas: On May 28, 2003, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct issued a report by Judge Pat Boone finding that Jefferson county judge Thurman Bartie engaged in judicial misconduct. Media reports focused on Bartie assaulting children during truancy hearings, removing his belt, giving it to parents and ordering them to beat their children with it in open court. Mentioned in passing, was Bartie's habit of telling prisoners who appeared in his Port Arthur courtroom that he knew their home addresses and would have sex with their wives while they were locked up. Media reports did not indicate if he followed up on his comments.
Washington: On June 22, 2003, Linda Beavers, 49, a Mason county jail prisoner, died in a Shelton hospital. Beavers had been serving a 270 day jail sentence for drunk driving and possessing methamphetamine. As soon as she was admitted to the critical care unit of the hospital, a Mason county judge released Beavers from custody so she would not have to be guarded by jail guards at considerable public expense. Beavers had complained to jail medical staff, contractor Health Delivery Systems, about being unable to breath whereupon she was hospitalized. Beavers suffered from arrhythmia, advanced cirrhosis, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and also had hepatitis A, B and C. Her cause of death was not known as PLN goes to press.
Washington: On June 30, 2003, Ralph Perkins, 53, resigned from his job as Okanogan county chief criminal deputy prosecutor. He had been on paid leave since May 23, 2003, when FBI agents searched his home and seized his computer as part of an investigation into Perkin's penchant for child pornography. The investigation began on May 22 when Perkin's wife gave a Grant county sheriff's deputy two compact discs she claimed belonged to Perkins containing images of child pornography and bestiality. Perkins admitted possessing the child pornography to police but claimed it was work related. Charges have not been filed as PLN goes to press. In 1993 Perkins resigned from his job as district court judge in Pend Oreille county after pleading guilty to two counts of fourth degree assault for choking his wife unconscious. Apparently the Okanogan county prosecutor's office felt that eminently qualified him for a job with their office and he was promptly hired.
Washington: On June 5, 2003, Washington Correction Center guards Michael Malpass, Rodney Bremen, Henry Trusler and Lisa Jordan sued the Department of Corrections in Thurston county superior court claiming they are exposed to dangerous levels of Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS) caused by prisoners smoking in the prison's living units. Prison superintendent Carol Porter noted that indoor smoking is banned at the prison and guards are responsible for enforcing the no smoking rule. The Washington DOC has announced plans to end all tobacco sales and use in its facilities on January 5, 2004. The state supreme court has previously held that state agencies can be held liable for exposing their employees to ETS. The guards are also seeking an immediate injunction to end smoking in Washington prisons.
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