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Attorney withdraws from American Private Police Force

Attorney Withdraws from American Private Police Force

Hardin, MT – On September 30, Prison Legal News (PLN), a non-profit monthly publication that reports on criminal justice-related issues, provided background research to the Associated Press and other media agencies regarding the American Private Police Force Organization (APF), which has offered to operate an empty prison in Hardin, Montana.

In conjunction with the Private Corrections Institute, Prison Legal News had linked Michael Hilton, APF’s representative, with a 2000 fraud and conspiracy lawsuit in California in which the court noted that Hilton had a criminal record. That case was Bentley v. Carella. The connection was made after PLN associate editor Alex Friedmann tracked down parties involved in the civil suit who positively identified APF’s Hilton from photos in news articles. This information and related research was provided to the Associated Press, which broke the story on September 30, concurrently with a separate investigation by the Billings Gazette.

PLN’s research included details about Maziar Mafi, the Santa Ana, California-based attorney representing APF. Mr. Mafi contacted PLN today to thank PLN for pointing out a discrepancy
on his website related to his track record in the appellate courts, and stated that the discrepancy will be corrected. Mr. Mafi also said that on September 30 he sent letters to APF and his contacts at the Two Rivers Authority in Hardin, indicating that he had “decided to discontinue my work with American Police Force at this time.” Mr. Mafi stated in a phone conversation with PLN that he wanted to “pull back and see some of the concrete stuff that can happen for this to have a reasonable chance of success,” referring to APF’s proposal to operate the Hardin facility.

The controversy surrounding APF and the vacant prison in Hardin has resulted in national media attention; state lawmakers have expressed concerns about APF, and Montana’s Attorney General has launched an investigation. An article about Hardin’s offer earlier this year to accept terrorism suspects from Guantanamo Bay to fill its detention facility appears in PLN’s October 2009 issue, and PLN’s recent background research on APF is posted on its website.

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