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News in Brief

Alabama: On August 22, 2003, state supreme court chief justice Roy Moore was suspended from the court for his refusal to obey a federal court judge's order that he remove a two ton monument of the ten commandments from the rotunda of the state supreme court's building. The monument, found to violate the establishment clause of the federal constitution, was later put in a non public area of the court. Moore had installed the monument in the middle of the night in 2001 without telling his fellow justices. On November 13, 2003, Moore was removed from office by the Court of the Judiciary. Public support he gained from his violation of the law and constitution have made him one of the most popular figures in Alabama.

Alaska: On October 12, 2003, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Cooper was arrested and charged by Anchorage police with domestic violence for hitting his wife Cynthia during an argument. Cynthia Cooper is also an attorney and until 2002 was Alaska's chief prosecutor.

California: On June 24, 2003, James Hamlet, 53, warden of the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad was charged with misdemeanor domestic abuse and assault with a deadly weapon for beating his girlfriend in September, 2002. Police had recommended felony charges but prosecutors took nine months to file the case as a misdemeanor and Hamlet was never arrested, his attorney answered the charges in court while Hamlet remained employed as warden of the state's second largest prison. Charles Olvis, the Monterey county district attorney's managing prosecutor said the delay in charging Hamlet was due to further investigation being required by police at prosecutors' request. "We just had a lot of work to do on it," Olvis said. Olvis would not say why the case was filed as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

California: Three unnamed California Department of Corrections parole agents were arrested in June, 2003, in Los Angeles while moonlighting as body guards for rap star Snoop Dogg en route to the Black Entertainment Television Awards. Police detained thirteen people, arresting three, and confiscated seven guns, knives, pepper spray and batons. CDC spokesman Russ Heimerich said they would examine off duty employment -by CDC employees as a result-of the incident. Dogg was convicted of cocaine possession in 1990 and has been acquitted on other serious criminal charges since then.

Colorado: In December, 2003, Pamela Dickens, a guard at a Canon City state prison was charged with paying an undercover policeman posing as a hitman to kill her husband for his life insurance money. She was also charged with having sex with a prisoner with whom she wished to spend her life and husband's money.

Florida: On October 9, 2003, child rapist Kevin Kinder, 31, was beaten unconscious in a holding cell of the Tampa jail while he was awaiting a court hearing. Kinder's assailant, who was charged with felony battery, was one of the victims Kinder raped 11 years ago. The victim, now 22, has apparently been in and out of jail ever since being raped. Kinder served 6 years of a 17 year prison sentence for the four child rapes to which he pleaded guilty in 1992. He was then held until 2001 as a sexually violent predator. In August, 2003, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for violating the terms of his parole by having pornography on his home computer, stealing an employer's car and not complying with a rule that he only drive to and from work. The victim's mother said he "just snapped" when he saw Kinder in the jail holding cell. A jail spokesman said the two men ending up in the same holding cell in the 4,200 bed jail was a fluke. On November 28, 2003, the assailant "snapped" again and severely beat Marty Morris, a prisoner charged with kidnapping and sexual battery. He was again charged with assault.

Florida: On September 18, 2003, Daniel Cosson, a lieutenant at the Wakulla Correctional Institution in Crawfordville was charged with perjury for lying about his assault on a prisoner. Police said Cosson had discussed fabricating an excuse to pepper spray and beat a prisoner with another guard, who reported the incident to prison officials. Police say Cosson attempted to arrange attacks on the unidentified prisoner three times. Interestingly, he was not charged with solicitation to commit assault which is a more serious crime than perjury.

Georgia: In October, 2003, Gilmer county jail guards Mark Wade, 29, Jason Watkins, 28, and Michael Herndon, 26, were arrested and charged in state court with beating jail prisoners during a disturbance on July 17, 2003, when prisoners damaged jail property and ignored guards.

Georgia: On August 21, 2003, Georgia State Prison guard Matthew Jones, 22, was charged with two counts of statutory rape for having sex with two juveniles under the age of sixteen. Prison officials at the Reidsville facility said Jones was suspended pending the outcome of the criminal charges, which are not job related.

Iowa: In November, 2003, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Natural Resources announced a program where state hunters would donate 19,000 pounds of venison to be used for prisoner meals. The program is designed to control the state's deer population and help the needy. The DOC will pay meat lockers $1 a pound to process the venison. By contrast, prisons buy ground beef for 99 cents a pound; ground pork for 93 cents and ground turkey for 43 cents a pound.

Iowa: On September 15, 2003, Dennis Deberg, 53, warden of the Luster Heights state prison camp, was charged with drunk driving in Clayton county. Deberg continues as warden of a prison that purports to specialize in treating prisoners with substance abuse problems.

Kentucky: On July 28, 2003, Steven Hoeck, 27, president of a county task force on child abuse was indicted in Danville on two counts of first degree sexual abuse for raping boys under the age of 12 between 1997 and 2001.

Louisiana: On October 15, 2003, David Lara, 26, and Heriberto Morales, 39, prisoners at the federal prison in Oakdale, were indicted by a grand jury on charges of escape and conspiracy to escape. An informant claims the men were going to detonate home made bombs inside the prison to distract guards and then flee in a getaway car. The informant revealed the plot to prison officials before anything happened.

Michigan: On July 31, 2003, Lydell Tanner, a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan was fired for assaulting prisoner Yousseff Hmimssa by slamming a cell door slot on Hmimssa's arms. Hmimssa, a self described con man, was the government's main witness in a Detroit terrorism trial against four men accused of providing material support for terrorists. Prosecutors declined to press charges against Tanner. The firing occurred after an FBI investigation.

Missouri: On October 26, 2003, prisoners Christopher Sims, 27, and Shannon Phillips, 35, were found hiding inside a false wall in the ice plant at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City where they worked. On October 22, 2003, the two men killed prisoner Toby Viles, in the ice plant and left a signed note claiming the murder and threatening to kill anyone who got in their way. Prison officials searched the prison for four days before finding the men hiding in the wall when a guard tapped the wall and then punched a hole in it. Both men immediately surrendered without incident. They were already serving life sentences for murder.

New Jersey: In September, 2003, Essex County Juvenile Detention captain Dana Hobson, 52, resigned and superintendent Anthony Paglucci, 54 and Assistant Superintendent David Sutton, 67, were fired from their jobs in the wake of the mistaken release of accused child killer Wesley Murphy, 17, from the facility on September 5. Murphy had been transferred to the facility from an adult jail earlier when the juvenile facility released him without requiring that he post a $100,000 bond. After a manhunt, Murphy turned himself in five days later saying he did not know his release was a mistake. Murphy is accused of killing his seven year old cousin Faheem Williams during a wrestling match. Faheem's decomposed body was discovered in January, 2003, a day after his starving brothers were found in the basement of Murphy's mother's home. She was charged with child endangerment.

North Carolina: On October 6, 2003, prisoner Shukur Shabazz, 31, was charged with attacking Piedmont Correctional Center guard Wallace Passmore with handcuffs and pepper spray while Passmore was searching Shabazz's cell in the segregation unit of the prison. Other guards then sprayed Shabazz with pepper spray and subdued him. Shabazz was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Ohio: In November, 2003, Jeffe Renne agreed to plead guilty to a forgery charge on one condition: that he remain in the Columbus jail for the weekend in order to watch the Ohio State-Michigan football game on television in the jail. Franklin county common pleas court judge Richard Sheward said he accepted the plea because "It's Michigan week and it's Columbus, Ohio, and I thought I should do my part for the Ohio State Buckeyes," he said.

Oklahoma: On October 2, 2003, Robert Jones, 21, a prisoner at the Wackenhut run Lawton Correctional Facility pleaded guilty to first degree murder charges for beating his cellmate, Samuel Fiddler, 20, to death on June 25, 2003. Fiddler had arrived at the prison less than 21 hours before the beating and was serving time for lewd molestation. Jones was then sentenced to life without parole for the murder. No motive was given for the murder.

Oklahoma: On October 8, 2003, Lt. David Pilgrim and Corporal Logan Johnson were stabbed in the arm and shoulder, respectively, by Washington state prisoner Castulo "Junior" Rivas, 37. The incident occurred in a day room of the H Unit control unit in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Rivas had been informed of the death of a family member when he used a shank to stab Pilgrim in both arms. When an extraction team came to subdue him, Rivas stabbed Johnson in the shoulder. Rivas is serving a sentence of life without parole under Washington's three strikes law. He was later transferred to Oklahoma.

Oregon: The Linn County sheriff's office policy of housing sex offenders in tents on jail grounds has ended after paroled sex offender Bruce Erbs contracted pneumonia during a cold spell in November, 2003. Erbs is now being housed in a $155 a week motel. Prior to this he lived in a $45 tent on jail grounds, used a portable toilet and showered at a local homeless shelter since his release from prison in July. The county said it was looking for permanent housing for Erbs but was having problems finding a landlord willing to house him because he has also been convicted of arson.

Pennsylvania: On October 11, 2003, Hugo Selenski, 30, and his cellmate Scott Bolton, 39, escaped from the Wilkes Barre jail by removing the window from their seventh floor cell and climbing out on a 60 foot rope made from bed sheets. Bolton slipped and fell during the escape and suffered internal injuries and numerous broken bones in the fall. Selenski then used a mattress to climb over razor wire and complete his escape from the modern jail. Jail warden Gene Fischi said of the cells, "They were supposed to be escape proof." Selenski turned himself in to police three days later at his home. He has been in jail after being arrested when the bodies of seven people were found on his property. Selenski is accused of robbing and kidnapping drug dealers. Selenski had previously served seven years in prison for bank robbery. Selenski is now being housed in a different jail.

Sweden: To deal with the problem of prisoners using cell phones to carry out illegal activities, ranging from murders to drug deals, the Swedish prison service in June, 2003, began jamming cell phone signals.

Texas: On October 10, 2003, Allred unit guard Nicholas Rodriguez, 34, pleaded guilty to orally raping a male prisoner at the facility in 2002 and was given a five year deferred sentence. The victim accidentally bumped into Rodriguez while exiting a dormitory. Rodriguez then threatened the prisoner with disciplinary action unless the prisoner performed oral sex on him. The prisoner agreed and saved Rodriguez's semen which he gave to police. Rodriguez had initially denied the allegations until a DNA match confirmed the semen was his

Turkey: On November 12, 2003, the country's parliament formally ratified its 2002 decision to abolish the death penalty in peacetime in an attempt to gain admittance to the European Union which does not allow the death penalty by any of its member states.

Virginia: On June 12, 2003, seven Dillwyn Correctional Center prisoners were struck by lighting in the prison's recreation yard. Rosalind Mabry, 50, was directly struck by the lightning bolt and while he survived, he remains in a coma and is due to be released on May 17, 2004. All the other prisoners recovered. The seven prisoners were diabetics going to receive insulin when the lightning struck.

Virginia: On October 8, 2003, the state civilly committed William Martin, 61, after Hanover county circuit judge John Alderman found him to be a "sexually violent predator" under that state's civil commitment law. Martin is the first person civilly committed in Virginia. Virginia's civil commitment laws were enacted in 1999 but not funded by the legislature until 2003. Ostensibly, Martin is to receive treatment, which he never received in prison, and will be considered for release within a year. Alderman expressed concern that at no point had anyone thought of giving Martin intensive probation or some form of community transition before releasing him from prison, jobless, homeless, unable to drive due to an inability to pay court fines, and with limited family support. Prosecutor Pamela Sargent said: "We can't do everything at once. Full commitment. We'll come back in a year and talk about alternatives."

Virginia: On September 30, 2003, Warren county jail guard Kevin Kinsey, 33, was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison after being convicted on five counts of trafficking crack cocaine to prisoners in Warren county jail's Restitution and Inmate Development Program.

Washington: On May 27, 2003, Michael Sipin had his medical furlough revoked and he was returned to prison after a local Seattle television station, KIRO-TV, filmed him playing with his dogs and seeding his lawn. Sipin had been sentenced to three years in prison for killing a man while drunk driving. He was released on a medical furlough due to serious injuries he received in the crash. The DOC retains exclusive authority to grant or revoke medical furloughs. Apparently media attention overrides medical needs.

Washington: On November 1, 2003, Jeff Rean, 19, escaped from the Minimum Security unit of the Monroe Correctional Complex by climbing over a wire mesh fence and razor wire. He was captured eight days later in Bellingham where he surrendered without resistance. Serving sentences for assault, he was due to be released in 2006. After the escape, prison officials banned prisoners from smoking outside and spread gravel along an outside road. Despite media fanfare, no measures were taken to ensure that staff charged with monitoring security cameras around the camp's perimeter actually do so.

Washington: On November 14, 2003, Floyd Drane, a guard at the Regional Justice Center in Kent, was charged in Pierce county superior court with kidnapping, assaulting and raping a woman in October. A week earlier, he was charged in the same court with first degree rape, robbery, assault and kidnapping for attacking a prostitute he had promised crack cocaine to in exchange for sex in September, 2003. That woman was held prisoner in Drane's home for two days before he decided to release her. She required surgery to repair an unspecified internal injury. Drane is being held in the Pierce county jail in Tacoma on $1.5 million bail.

West Virginia: On October 9, 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Roger Hager, 28, for threatening to blow up the Beckley Federal Correctional Institution in Beaver where he had previously served time for threatening a judge and making a bomb threat. Hager has a history of mental illness which does not seem to dissuade federal prosecutors from convicting and imprisoning him on a regular basis. g

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