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News in Brief:

Alaska: On February 5, 2005, Alaska attorney general Gregg Renkes (R)resigned after it came to light that while promoting a trade deal with a Taiwanese energy company he held some $100,000 worth of stock in the company and had served as its lobbyist and adviser before becoming attorney general.

Argentina: Some 2,000 prisoners rebelled on February 10, 2005, in the maximum-security San Martin prison in Cordoba, taking 24 guards and the prison director hostage. The revolt apparently erupted after a prison guard pushed the wife of a prisoner. On February 11, some 1,000 police and National Guard troops arrived and surrounded the prison as concerned family members gathered outside. When the conflict ended with the prisoners' surrender later that day, five prisoners, two guards and a police agent had been killed and dozens of people were wounded. The prison was built a century ago for 900 prisoners; relatives say the prisoners are treated like animals.

California: On December 30, 2004, the California Youth Authority (CYA) suspended all work and public service crews after two of its prisoners, Thao Lor, 22, and Yatau Her, 21, escaped from the Cal Expo, annual state fair site, where they were sorting winter coats for a charity group. Both men are Hmong. Lor was imprisoned for second degree murder and Her for assault with a deadly weapon. CYA officials were unable to say why, if the men were so dangerous, they had been placed in an outside work position.

California: On January 5, 2005, Michael Overton, 42, a vocational instructor at the Sierra Conservation Center in Tuolumne, pleaded guilty to nine counts of child molestation stemming from his attacks on two girls aged between 12 and 16 whom he plied with drugs and alcohol before fondling and groping them.

California: On May 20, 2004, Julio Vega, 41, a guard at the US Penitentiary in Lompoc pleaded guilty in federal court to attempting to smuggle heroin into the prison. Vega was arrested in an FBI sting operation where he accepted 3 grams of heroin and $3,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a prisoner's girlfriend and agreed to deliver it to a prisoner at the penitentiary. In other cases, Vega would accept heroin as payment and then sell it to prisoners himself. In return for the plea, prosecutors dropped bribery and drug possession with intent to distribute charges against Vega.

Colorado: On February 8, 2005, former Conejos county sheriff Isaac Gallegos and his wife Mary were indicted by a grand jury with embezzling public property, criminal extortion and witness intimation. The charges stem from forcing jail prisoners to build an addition to their home and punishing prisoners who refused to do so and stealing money from the county. Mary was the Conejos county jail administrator and victims advocate coordinator. The couple is also accused of stealing guns, a washing machine and a computer system from the jail. When jail prisoner Timmy Salazar reported he was threatened with a transfer to a distant jail if he refused to work on the Gallegos' home, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation investigated the claim leading to the indictment.

Colorado: On September 16, 2004, Arapahoe county prosecutors charged Paul Pratt, 23, Clarence Churchill, 29, John McGhee, 30, Jeanene McGhee, 26 and Rochelle Horton, 39, with numerous weapons, solicitation of murder and attempted escape charges. The five accused purchased weapons and explosives from an undercover cop at the behest of Khadasi Horton, an Arapahoe county jail prisoner awaiting trial on robbery charges, with the intention of murdering witnesses against him and then launching an attack, led by his mother, on the jail to free him. Lacking the money to pay for the weapons and explosives, Horton gave the undercover cop he made the deal with a written contract promising to pay later.

Colorado: On September 30, 2004, two teenagers escaped from the Cornell Southern Peaks Treatment Center in Colorado Springs and made it to Canon City before being recaptured. The private, for profit Cornell prison had been open less than two months when the escape occurred.

Georgia: In August, 2004, officials at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson claimed to have foiled an escape plot by death row prisoners David Franks, Andrew Deyoung and Michael Nance. The prisoners had allegedly cut through the wall air vents in their cells and were working on cutting through a door that would have let them out of the prison's death row cell house. Guards found hacksaw blades, cash, welding materials, 25 feet of bed sheets fashioned into ropes, ski masks and long johns, knives, duct tape, a flashlight and a map of Georgia. An unidentified guard was suspended by prison officials and investigated for allegedly supplying the items to the prisoners. Since death row has no air conditioning, the fans in the unit make enough noise to cover up the sound of hacksaws. Prison officials discovered the plot after receiving a tip from a prisoner snitch. All three prisoners are facing execution for murder.

Latvia: Each weekend tourists pay $9.20 to spend the night in the former Nazi and Soviet era prison in Liepaja. $3.70 buys a tour of the prison. The overnight deal buys a faux interrogation" by mock prison guards, a staged execution and much more.

New Mexico: In February, 2005, officials at the Socorro County jail in Albuquerque found a brick sized quantity of marijuana on prisoner Joseph Padilla. They were trying to determine how he obtained the drug.

New Mexico: On September 2, 2004, former Bernalillo state district court judge John Brennan pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine and aggravated drunk driving. He was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation. Brennan told sentencing judge George Perez he felt embarrassed and humiliated as a result of my actions." But, at least he didn't go to jail or prison.

Ohio: On February 3, 2005, death row prisoners Richard Cooley, 37, and Maxwell White, 39, attempted to escape from the Mansfield Correctional Institution by climbing out of a fenced recreation cage. The men were unable to get over razor wire before being recaptured by guards.

Ohio: On February 7, 2005, Ohio Supreme Court justice Alice Resnick pleaded guilty to drunk driving in Bowling Green. Her attorney, Sheldon Wittenberg, said Resnick For the better part of her adult life, has been fighting alcoholism." He called the drunken driving incident a relapse and noted Resnick had no intention of resigning from the bench. No comments were made as to the effect, if any, her alcoholism had on her ability to serve as a judge. Resnick was sentenced to a six month driver's license suspension and was ordered to complete a three day alcohol rehabilitation program.

Ohio: On June 28, 2004, Kyle Rice, 34, a guard at the London Correctional Institution was charged in Madison county municipal court with rape and domestic violence for allegedly assaulting an unidentified woman.

Ohio: On June 8, 2004, Kimberly Butkovich, 40, was arrested for smuggling balloons of marijuana to a prisoner at the London Correctional Institution for his birthday. Butkovich was arrested during the visit. Prison investigators learned of the drug smuggling plot while monitoring the unidentified prisoner's phone calls.

Oklahoma: On December 30, 2004, 8 prisoners in the Washington County Detention Center were charged with possessing marijuana in the jail. The men were charged after an unidentified prisoner informant told jail officials the illegal weed was being smoked inside the jail.

Oklahoma: While searching the yard of the Talawanda Heights unit of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester on September 1, 2004, guards found a basketball containing nearly two pounds of marijuana inside. The basketball contained 30 one ounce packets of marijuana and prison officials, who acted on a tip from local police, claimed not to know how it got there.

Peru: At least five prisoners were killed and 23 others wounded by bullets on February 8, 2005, at Lurigancho prison, located in the San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima. The violence reportedly erupted in a clash among different groups of prisoners for control of lucrative illegal businesses in the jail. The facility was built to hold 2,000 prisoners and currently holds 8,300. All injuries were inflicted by prisoners.

Tennessee: On December 29, 2004, two guards at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville were injured when a prisoner kicked one guard in the face and others intervened when other guards rushed to attack the prisoner. Prisoners called family members to report a riot. DOC media flack Roland Colson said the incident involved less than a handful" of prisoners and that the uprising was subdued with tear gas within three hours. He denied that a riot occurred. Inmates like to create stories and get their names in the press." One guard was treated for missing teeth and another suffered minor injuries.

Texas: On September 15, 2004, Houston criminal defense lawyer C. Tom. Zaratti, 60, was convicted of possessing child pornography on his home computer and sentenced to 10 years in prison. When he took his computer to a repair shop, a technician found 61 movies and more than 90 photos of teenagers and young children having sex. At trial Zaratti disclaimed knowledge of the materials and argued a computer virus had infected his machine and placed the photos and movies there. While free on bail awaiting trial he was arrested and police again found child pornography on his computer. Zaratti practiced law from his home and was usually court appointed to represent indigent defendants.

Texas: On September 30, 2004, Torrence Henry, 28, Austin Davis, 18, and Jason Lee, 22, escaped from the Bi State Justice Building Jail in Texarkana by tearing a hole in the ceiling of their units shower and escaping through the ventilation system. Henry was charged with murder and was awaiting trial. Davis and Lee were arrested shortly after the escape was discovered. The jail is operated under contract by the private, for profit company Civigenics.

Texas: On September 30, 2004, two unidentified 16 year old children at the Ector County Youth Center prison in Odessa escaped from the prison by shocking a cook with electricity, stealing her car and eluding jail guards. The children left a note saying This is our day.

Venezuela: On December 25 and 26, 2004, riots in five separate Venezuelan prisons claimed the lives of four prisoners and seriously inured six others. All the injuries were by gunshots inflicted by other prisoners.

Washington: On December 24, 2004, Lisa Jones, 33, a prisoner at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor, hanged herself in her cell. She had been in prison for approximately one year and was due to be released in June, 2005.

Washington: On September 12, 2004, the state Department of Social and Health Services moved its lone civilly committed sex predator," Laura McCollum, 46, to its McNeil Island facility to be housed with the 190 male detainees. One of three women in the nation civilly committed as a sex predator," McCollum is not happy at being housed and treated with male sex offenders. Experts in sex offender treatment say that it is generally not a good idea to mix sex offenders by gender. DSHS officials glossed over such concerns noting McCollum had nothing to fear and she would be treated with pedophiles that have no interest in adult women. McCollum had been convicted of sexually assaulting a number of small children.

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