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News in Brief

Arizona: On June 1, 2004, over 20 prisoners in the Yavapai county jail became very ill after an unidentified person put industrial soap in the dinner meal's iced tea. One prisoner was in critical condition and several others were hospitalized afterwards. Police were investigating.

Brazil: On May 30, 2004, prisoners at the Benfica prison in Rio de Janeiro rioted and took 26 prison guards and employees hostage. Fourteen prisoners then escaped from the prison. Television news stations showed prisoners breaking holes in the wall of the prison while others shot at police, injuring four police. Prison officials claimed they recaptured three of the escaped prisoners. When the riot ended on June 1, police found at least 30 dead prisoners, many of whose bodies were burned, mutilated and decapitated. At least one guard was killed. Prisoners released their hostages after prison officials agreed to separate rival gang members. The mediation was handled by Marcos Pereira da Silva, a popular prison minister.

California: In June, 2004, Kris Pleschner, 18, sued Sacramento superior court judge Michael Kenny for lying to his supermarket employer by claiming Pleschner was a convicted sex offender which led to his firing. Pleschner pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor after Kenny reported him to police for having a relationship with a family member. Pleschner completed the terms of his sentence and the conviction was expunged. Pleschner claims Kenny abused his judicial power by contacting the supermarket, identifying himself as a judge and lying about his criminal past.

California: On June 6, 2004, Steven Murphy and Yvonne Rodriguez were married at the Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles. Murphy and Rodriguez have worked with mentally ill youth in the jail on behalf of the Detention Ministry of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The couple said they chose the jail as the site of their wedding so the people closest to them could attend. "It was such a powerful moment when the children applauded," said Rodriguez, a psychiatric social worker. Murphy is a doctor.

California: On May 28, 2004, David Sablan, 39, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc was indicted on charges that he attacked and injured another prisoner on April 10, 2003 with a pipe.

Connecticut: On May 6, 2004, the Department of Corrections fired prison guards Gary Piscottano, Mark Vicenzo and Walter Scappini because they are members of the Outlaws motorcycle club. The former guards claim that their firing violates their First amendment rights and note that no DOC rule or policy specifically prohibits membership in a motorcycle club. The DOC claims the Outlaws are a gang and membership in the Club could jeopardize prison security. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4 has filed grievances on the men's behalf and the former guards have also sued in federal courts claiming that the firings violate their First amendment rights.

Connecticut: On My 12, 2004, James Ross, 20, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to raping his mentally retarded cellmate at the Corrigan Correctional Institution. Despite pleading guilty to second degree sexual assault, Ross claimed the sex was consensual. The state responded that because the victim is retarded he could not consent to sex. But apparently he is well enough to be tried and convicted of a crime and imprisoned with other non disabled adults.

District of Columbia: On June 4, 2004, the Washington Post reported that Thomas Griffith, a Bush administration nominee for a judgeship on the federal District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals practiced as a lawyer in the District of Columbia for three years without a license because he did not pay his Bar Association dues. Griffith refused to discuss his lapsed law license when contacted by reporters. It violates court rules to practice law without a valid license. The Justice Department supports Griffith's nomination and claimed that his law license expired due to a "clerical oversight." Department spokesmen would not say whether the incident was deemed serious.

Hawaii: On January 16, 2004, former Maui Community Correctional Center warden Albert Murashige, 46, pleaded no contest to four counts of sexually assaulting a 44 year old female prisoner at the jail. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped nine other charges against Murashige who had worked at the jail since 1980 and been warden since 1991.

Hawaii: On May 26, 2004, Honolulu lawyer Stephen Leong, 42, was convicted by a federal jury on charges that he planned to smuggle crystal methamphetamine into the Halawa prison complex. Apparently he is the first lawyer in state history to be convicted of attempting to smuggle drugs into a prison. Two prison guards were indicted and convicted in an unrelated drug smuggling operation as well. Lani Soliven, the wife of prisoner Michael Soliven, testified that on three occasions she gave "ice" to Leong who in turn mailed it to Soliven as attorney client mail. Prosecutors say that Leong's role in prison drug smuggling came to light when prisoner Michael Alvarez contacted prison officials and "disclosed outright how he was able to obtain the drug in prison." Leong contended he was entrapped and that Alvarez was seeking to get out of prison while Lani had received immunity for her testimony against him.

Louisiana: On June 7, 2004, the offices of the District Attorney in New Orleans had to be evacuated after raw sewage from backed up bathroom pipes exploded through the ceiling and ran down the walls. The city health department declared the building "unsafe for human habitation." District attorney Eddie Jordan noted he had complained of the buildings poor maintenance for some time. As a result of the sewage explosion, all "non essential" prosecutions were being suspended but Jordan stated that violent crime prosecutions would continue as prosecutors worked from a nearby middle school.

Massachusetts: On December 20, 2003, Bristol jail property coordinator Jeffrey DaCosta, 32, was indicted in federal court on charges that he charged jail prisoners $1,000 for each brick of heroin he allowed them to receive. Police learned of his involvement in drug smuggling when they traced a cell phone number used in a drug transaction back to DaCosta who was allowing a prisoner to use his cell phone to complete drug deals.

Massachusetts: Suffolk County jail guard Robert Sacchetti, 33, was placed on leave without pay in January, 2004, after Rhode Island police arrested him on domestic violence charges. Police claim he ripped a phone out of the wall of his girlfriend's home, pinned her down on her bed and tried to choke her after she packed his belongings and asked him to leave her home.

Massachusetts: The Department of Corrections in December, 2003, announced it was shelving a plan to end the representation of prisoners by Harvard law students under Harvard University's Prison Assistance Project.

New York: In late January, 2004, Anthony Phillips, 45, a guard at the Criminal Courts Building in Manhattan, was charged with having sex with a male prisoner in the court buildings' holding area and then punching the prisoner in the eye, choking him and holding his head under running water after the prisoner ripped Phillips' pants and underwear.

Ohio: On June 8, 2004, the state executed William Zuern, 45, for the 1984 killing of Cincinnati jail guard Phillip Pence. Zuern stabbed Pence to death while awaiting trial on unrelated murder charges when Pence attempted to search his cell for weapons. Zuern refused to speak to prison staff before his execution and put toilet paper in his ears to avoid hearing them. Asked if he had any last words before he was killed, Zuern responded "nope."

Pennsylvania: On March 1, 2004, Samuel Mackey, 38, was arrested in Homewood by the Greater Pittsburgh Fugitive Task Force on charges that in 1999 he threw urine on two prison employees at the State Correctional Institution Mahoney in Frackville shortly before being released. Mackey failed to show up for the criminal proceedings and in 2000 a judge issued a warrant for his arrest and he had been a fugitive ever since.

South Carolina: In late May, 2004, Dean Ford, 29, a prisoner at the Allendale Correctional Institution, and Jessica Hanna, 29, were charged with criminal conspiracy in the smuggling of a gun into the prison. Ford and another prisoner were shot and wounded on April 18, 2004, at the prison.

Texas: On December 29, 2003, Miguel Zepeda, a guard at the privately operated federal Eden Detention Center pleaded guilty to accepting a $4,000 bribe from a prisoner in exchange for removing an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer from his file. In addition to being corrupt, Zepeda is a liar. Since he had no authority or ability to remove the detainer, the detainer remained in the prisoner's file even after the bribe was paid and the prisoner's attorney told him the detainer remained active.

Utah: On May 3, 2004, Anna Roberts, 33, was charged in Salt Lake City with giving prison guard Larry Van Cox $5,000 to smuggle tobacco, a cell phone, portable DVD player and a printer with a gun hidden inside to a prisoner at the Utah State Prison in Draper. Van Cox was arrested in March, 2004. Prisoner Jeffrey Roberts was charged along with Roberts and accused of helping deliver the gun. g

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