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News in Brief

News in Brief:

Afghanistan: On December 17, 2004, troops of the American puppet regime stormed the Pul-e Charkhi jail in Kabul where four prisoners, three Pakistanis and an Iraqi, had attempted to escape by killing and disarming a jail guard and using his automatic rifle to escape the prison. The four prisoners and four guards were killed in the escape attempt and an additional three soldiers, three policemen and two prisoners were wounded in the ensuing ten hour gun battle. The prisoners had originally been captured by U.S. forces and accused of fighting on behalf of the Taliban. They were eventually released and later arrested on unspecified criminal charges before the current escape attempt.

Brazil: On December 15, 2004, six guards at Rio de Janeiro's Ary Franco prison were convicted of torturing Chinese businessman Chan Kim Chan, 46, to death. Chan had been arrested and was in the jail for attempting to leave Brazil with $30,000 in undeclared cash. The guards apparently wanted to know if he had more money. The guards were each sentenced to 18 years in prison. Three prisoners who assisted in the torture were sentenced to 13 years in prison. Chan was beaten into a coma and died in a hospital several days later. Prison officials had initially claimed Chan's injuries were self inflicted.

California: On December 14, 2004, a Los Angeles federal jury convicted Christian Ehlers, 29, of stealing more than $1.4 million from various credit card companies in a stolen credit card scam. Ehlers used the proceeds of his crimes to buy luxury cars and pay his way through law school. He graduated from Loyola Law School in 2001 and was admitted to the California Bar in the same year. Apparently Ehlers represents the truism that no one can take away a good education.

California: On December 15, 2004, a former Folsom prison guard June Lucena, 41, was arrested and booked into the Sacramento county jail on one count of attempted perjury and one count of issuing a false statement to fraudulently obtain compensation. Lucena had sought worker's compensation claiming she had suffered permanent injury when she fell down while working in a prison tower in 1999. She claimed constant pain, an inability to work and in 2003 took an untaxed disability pension of $2,307 a month, and she received a total of $170,309.00 before the scam was discovered. The California Insurance Department and prison investigators scrutinized Lucena's claim after receiving a tip she was not, in fact, disabled. She was arrested after investigators videotaped her doing back flip dives off her personal jet ski and on water slides.

California: On December 9, 2004, Roger Nyles, 35, a prisoner in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles, escaped from the jail while working on a jail loading dock. When a gate opened to allow a bus to enter, Nyles ran through the gate and took a cab to South Los Angeles. He turned himself in to police on December 12, 2004.

Connecticut: On November 12, 2004, Gloria Bellacicco, 41, a guard at the Webster Correctional Institution in Cheshire was arrested and charged with second degree larceny for stealing a neighbor's baseball card collection valued at $10,000. Bellacicco was turned in by Patrick McCue, a Hamden police officer she was dating and to whom she revealed details of the theft. The cards may have been stolen to finance Bellacicco's drug habit.

Florida: In August, 2004, Joe Hatem, 56, a Department of Corrections probation supervisor was fired from his $95,000 a year job when probationer Troy Victorino, 27, was charged with stabbing and beating six people to death. Victorino and three others allegedly committed the murders to avenge the theft of his X-Box game player. A few days before the murders, on July 29, 2004, Victorino was arrested on felony battery charges and released on bail even though he was on parole for a prior felony conviction. His parole was not revoked either. In addition to Hatem, three other DOC employees were fired, Richard Burrow, the parole officer who did not revoke Victorino's parole; his supervisor Paul Hayes; Robert Gordon a circuit administrator and Hatem, the regional probation supervisor. Hatem expressed amazement at his firing, noting he had a spotless 30 year career with the DOC and claimed the situation was one he had no control over. DOC secretary James Crosby claimed the men were fired because they were not familiar with DOC policy on parole revocations. Several recent murders in Florida have been committed by parolees and probationers who should have been in jail on parole violation charges but were not.

Illinois: On December 5, 2004, George Washington Sr., 27, a prisoner in the Stephenson County jail in Freeport, took another prisoner hostage using a sharpened toothbrush and threatened to kill him if he remained in the jail. Washington is a federal pre trial detainee awaiting trial on federal drug trafficking charges along with 45 other alleged members of the Black Gangster Disciples. Washington released his hostage after another prisoner talked to him about the incident. He was charged with misdemeanor assault for the incident and got his wish of being taken into federal custody and he was removed from the jail.

Kentucky: On June 28, 2004, four Louisville metro jail guards were among 25 guards sprayed in the face during training with pepper spray made by Pepperball Technologies. The spray was so potent the four guards injured with three requiring hospitalization. One developed blisters on his eyes, one had problems with his esophagus and two had lung problems. The jail decided not to use the new spray as a result of the training incident. The company's spokesman, Chris Andrews, said he was unaware of any problems with the company's products.

Louisiana: On December 13, 2004, the Louisiana Supreme Court suspended state court judge Timothy Ellender for one year without pay for dishonoring his position as a judge. The court deferred half the penalty. Ellender, who is white, attended a Halloween party dressed in blackface, handcuffs and a jail jumpsuit. The party's host, Ellender's brother in law, was dressed as Buckwheat. The court held: "The negative shroud cast upon the state's judiciary by judge Ellender's actions will only be lifted by time."

Maine: On July 21, 2004, Bethany Bodenheim, 30, a drug and alcohol counselor at the Maine Correctional Center was arrested and charged with one count of gross sexual assault for having sex with a male prisoner at the facility. She was employed by Spectrum Behavioral Services, a private, for profit company. On the same day, April Archer, 37, a medical technician at the same prison who was employed by Correctional Medical Services was also arrested on five counts of gross sexual assault for having sex with a male prisoner. Like most states, Maine criminalizes sexual contact between prisoners and prison employees.

Maryland: On December 10, 2004, Lilvon Johnson, a visitor to the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland was arrested by police in a sting operation on charges she was smuggling marijuana and heroin into the prison in her body cavities. Alvin Simmons, the driver of the car that brought Johnson to the prison was arrested after running into a nearby swamp to elude police.

Massachusetts: On November 2, 2004, Jeffrey Holliday, 41, a Bureau of Prisons maintenance foreman at the Devens Federal Medical Center prison, was charged in federal court with three counts of embezzling $90,000 in federal funds. Holliday allegedly used his government credit card to bill vendors for items that were never provided.

New Hampshire: On October 7, 2004, Ronald Turgeon, 59, a prisoner at the New Hampshire State Prison killed himself by jumping from a balcony and falling forty feet. Turgeon was apparently concerned he would be transferred to a prison in the Northern part of the state and would be unable to see his wife as often. Prison officials stated Turgeon was being transferred to a halfway house as soon as space became available. A year prior to the successful suicide attempt, Turgeon had attempted to kill himself by drinking windshield washer fluid. His widow Luisa was upset the prison had neither treated nor monitored her husband's mental illness. Turgeon had served 15 years of a 10-30 year sentence for sexually assaulting a young girl.

New York: Manhattan housing court judge Jerald Klein, was indignant after learning he had been listed on eBay, the internet auction site, as being "for sale." The listing showed a smiling picture of Klein seated in his courtroom. Before being removed by eBay after four days the listing drew 21 bidders (out of 6,400 viewers) and a top bid of $127.50. Klein was indignant after learning of the incident from a reporter who called and asked him for comment. The ad was posted by Janet Schoenburg, a renter unhappy that Klein had ruled against her in a housing dispute. She stated the ad was meant as a parody and a satire.

Oregon: On September 15, 2004, Oregon State Penitentiary prisoner Mark Taylor, 22, allegedly stabbed Lt. Gary Russell and guard Mark Taylor, 45. the attack was supposedly unprovoked and occurred in the prison's control room floor. The prison was placed on lockdown after the incident. Prison officials acknowledged that attacks on staff are very rare in Oregon and could not recall when the last one had occurred.

Pennsylvania: On September 14, 2004, Fernando Real, 21, repeatedly stabbed co-defendant Andy Torres, 21, when the two pretrial detainees were briefly placed together in the same holding cell at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia. Torres sustained seven stab wounds to the back, arm and shoulder. Real was charged with aggravated assault. Torres had given police statements implicating Real in an attempted murder case the two men are accused of committing. Real is also awaiting trial for the 2002 murder of a man over a disputed game of craps. Both men are charged in the crime. The two men were supposed to be held apart. In April, 2004, jail guards found a home made knife concealed in the rectum of a jail prisoner. That same month another prisoner was shot in the back by a deputy sheriff after going over a table, screaming and lunging at a judge in court.

South Carolina: In early December, 2004, Kenneth Tager, 37, a prisoner at the Federal Correctional Institution in Edgefield, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to possess and intent to distribute for smuggling marijuana into the prison. His co-defendant, Pamela Forsyth, would bring the marijuana to him and he would sell it. Forsyth also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation.

Texas: On December 15, 2004, Adrian Barrientos, 29, an employee with Treatment Associates, a company that contracts with the U.S. Probation Office to provide drug testing to federal probationers, was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice for trading sex with a female probationer in exchange for falsifying her drug test results to indicate she had not used illegal drugs when in fact she had. Barrientos falsified the test results after the woman told him her urine would test positive for drug use.

Venezuela: This nation continues to have the deadliest prisons in the Western hemisphere. As of November 12, 2004, at least 247 prisoners had been murdered and 536 seriously injured in the country's 32 overcrowded, understaffed and crumbling prisons. This is in a prisoner population of 15,000, half of whom are awaiting trial. Most of the deaths occurred during riots, with 120 being killed by gunshots and 59 being stabbed to death. Between October, 2001 and September, 2002, over 244 prisoners were killed and over 1,200 seriously injured according to the U.S. State Department.

Washington: On August 25, 2004, Crystal Benson, 41, a Department of Corrections parole officer, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay $14,951 to the Crime Victims Fund after pleading guilty in Spokane County Superior Court to stabbing a drug dealer while attempting to rob him in her home. John Burton, 37, sold Benson crack cocaine and had sex with her. Apparently when he would no longer give Benson cocaine she tried to rob him and wound up stabbing him several times in the back. The crime came to light when Benson claimed she had been raped. Burton had been found stabbed near Benson's home but claimed not to know the attacker before telling police Benson attacked him while trying to steal his drugs and money. Originally charged with attempted second degree murder and also with lying to police that her car had been stolen in order to defraud her insurance company, prosecutors allowed her to plead guilty to the lying charge and dropped the more serious charge. Benson had a history of drug abuse before being hired by the DOC. PLN frequently reports on the Washington DOC's parole liability problems, which mostly revolve around the negligent supervision of parolees.

Washington: On November 3, 2004, Everett police arrested attorney Bill Joice, 50, and charged him with attempted murder for ambushing and shooting fellow lawyer Kevin Jung, 44, in the head as Jung parked his car near his office. The two lawyers represented parties in a dispute over franchise rights of a Korean grocery in Lynnwood. The shooting occurred the day before a hearing was scheduled in which Jung was asking a Snohomish county superior court to impose sanctions on Joice and his clients for failing to comply with numerous court orders in the case. Joice was employed as Snohomish county deputy prosecutor handling criminal cases from 1991 until 2000 when he entered private practice. Joice had already been repeatedly sanctioned in the case and paid at least $4,382.36 in the case for missing deadlines and failing to appear in court. Jung is a well respected member of the local Korean American community and remains in serious condition as this issue of PLN goes to press. Joice is in jail awaiting trial on $5 million bail.

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