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News in Brief:
California: In late November 2009, Craig Howard, 47, formerly a state parole agent, was arrested at Sacramento International Airport trying to smuggle drugs onto a plane by flashing his old badge at a security checkpoint. Transportation Security Administration agents observed him attempting to stuff a bag of marijuana in his shoe; they also found methamphetamine in his bag. Howard has been charged with various drug-related offenses and for impersonating a peace officer.
Connecticut: Hartford city police officer Rhashim Campbell was charged with misdemeanor assault and felony fabricating evidence on December 9, 2009. He is accused of beating prisoner Michael Stewart on November 1 after Stewart flooded his cell. Officer Kent Lee also was involved in the beating, but was not charged. Campbell has been suspended without pay; Lee retired from the police force after the incident.
Florida: Michael Combs, a guard at the Orange County Jail, was charged with battery on December 21, 2009. Two female prisoners claimed he touched them inappropriately while awaiting trial in a holding cell. Combs admitted that he touched them on the buttocks, but said his actions were not sexually motivated. He was released on bond following his arrest and has been placed on administrative leave.
Florida: Wayne Kerschner was fired from his job as a guard at the Alachua County Jail on December 31, 2009 for vi-olating a policy prohibiting employees from participating in subversive or terrorist organizations. He admitted to investigators that he was a dues-paying member and officer of the Ku Klux Klan. He defended his membership in the KKK, arguing it is a faith-based organization.
Great Britain: Stephen Gough was arrested for public indecency just seconds after being released from Perth Prison on December 17, 2009. Gough has gained notoriety and spent a considerable portion of the past seven years behind bars for trying to walk around the country naked. He was repeatedly warned by the court that he would be re-arrested every time he attempted to step out of prison without wearing pants. Gough said that he accepts he may continue to be jailed, but defended his right to remain naked as an expression of individual freedom. He was allowed to represent himself in court while completely nude, but may face additional jail time for contempt of court.
Italy: On January 27, 2010, United Press International reported that Italy was nearing completion of a prison unit that will only hold transgender prisoners – a first for that nation’s prison system. The unit, located at the Pozzale correctional facility, will house about 30 transgender prisoners.
Massachusetts: In January 2010, the State Ethics Commission found that Norfolk County jail guard Brian Laumann violated conflict of interest laws when he offered to buy a prisoner’s house in late 2003 or early 2004. He was fined $6,000 by the Commission. Laumann had agreed to pay off approximately $200,000 in outstanding mortgages and to give the prisoner’s wife between $10,000 and $20,000 in cash. Laumann paid the mortgages but only gave the prisoner’s wife $5,000. He sold the home a few months later for $289,000. “Mr. Laumann used his position as a county correction officer, a position with tremendous power and authority over the jail’s inmates, to enter into an inherently coercive private commercial relationship with an inmate,” said Commission Executive Director Karen Nober.
Mexico: On January 20, 2010, 23 prisoners were killed and an unknown number were injured during a riot at a prison in Durango. The riot began when a fight broke out between two drug cartels. The region has been the scene of increasing violence between the rival gangs. Seven prisoners were killed during a riot in March 2009 at the Durango prison, and 20 more died of knife and gunshot wounds in August during a separate incident at the Gomez Palacio prison. As previously reported in PLN, Mexico’s prisons are bulging at the seams since the country stepped up its war on drugs, with more than 67,000 drug-related arrests in just three years. Police aggression and overcrowding have contributed to many of the disturbances, including armed cartel members raiding prisons to free their incarcerated compatriots.
Michigan: On January 14, 2010, state prisoner Leonard P. Riffe, 51, died after stabbing two guards at the St. Louis Correctional Facility. Riffe reportedly stabbed the guards during a fight after a routine search revealed he was carrying a shank. He was taken to a holding cell, where he collapsed and died of a heart attack. The guards were treated at a local hospital and released. Riffe was serving a life sentence.
Missouri: On November 12, 2009, Jeffrey Tedrick, 46, pleaded guilty to various federal offenses for stealing $22,960 from fellow prisoners. Tedrick, who has never held a license to practice law, told other prisoners that he was a disbarred corporate attorney and offered to provide them with legal services. In one case, he took thousands of dollars from the family of Michael Belfield, a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder, and promised to file appeals on his behalf. No appeals were ever filed and Belfield is now barred from challenging his convictions.
New Mexico: Charles Buccigrossi, 65, a former education director at the New Mexico Women’s Correctional Facility, has been indicted for criminal sexual penetration of a prisoner. On August 10, 2009, the unidentified prisoner was cleaning the director’s office when she claimed Buccigrossi instructed her to have sex with him. He told her she would “stay doing more time” if she refused. DNA supported the prisoner’s accusation. The facility is run by Corrections Corporations of America (CCA). PLN has previously reported on sexual abuse of prisoners by CCA staff. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.40].
New York: Guards at the Varick Federal Detention Facility broke up a hunger strike by detainees who were protesting immigration policies and practices. According to one detainee, “all hell broke loose” on January 19, 2010, when about 100 prisoners refused to go to the mess hall and handed guards a flier declaring they were on a hunger strike. The detainee, who asked to remain anonymous, said guards used pepper spray and “beat up” prisoners in retaliation. Other detainees were transferred to jails in other states, thrown in segregation, or threatened with similar treatment if they continued the hunger strike. A spokesman from the Department of Homeland Security denied the allegations, saying guards merely searched the dormitory in question.
Ohio: Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility guard William Hesson, 39, died of a cardiac rhythm disturbance on April 29, 2009. Hesson was wrestling with prisoner Hubert Morgan, 18, at the time. The guard had Morgan in a head-lock when Morgan kneed him in the chest, causing the heart attack. Morgan later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the incident; he faces a sentence that ranges from probation to ten years in prison. According to a report released in January 2010, prisoners at the facility claimed that horseplay between guards and offenders was commonplace.
Oklahoma: Calista Hullet, 30, an employee at the Cleveland County Detention Center, was arrested on January 5, 2010 for embezzling about $1,000 from prisoners. She apparently took cash from the prisoners while they were being transferred out of the jail to other facilities. Hullet confessed to the theft when questioned by investigators. She was fired and booked into her former place of employment upon her arrest.
Oklahoma: On December 17, 2009, Oklahoma County Detention Center guard Gavin Douglas Littlejohn was acquitted of federal civil rights charges stemming from his alleged involvement in beating prisoner Christopher Beckman to death in May 2007. PLN previously reported on Littlejohn’s indictment, as well as the indictment of fellow guard Justin Mark Isch. [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.33]. Prosecutors later decided that Isch was not at fault for Beckman’s death and dropped all charges against him.
Pennsylvania: In January 2010, Kareem Haskins was acquitted of aggravated assault after he passed gas in a guard’s face at the Monroe County Jail. Haskins was housed in the segregation unit when officers came to search his cell on May 13, 2009. He farted in guard Mathew Knowles’ face during a pat search. The incident was caught on a security camera, which showed Knowles forcibly shoving Haskins into a wall in response to the ill-timed flatulence. A scuffle en-sued and Haskins struck Knowles in the face with his handcuffed fists. The acquittal sparked criticism from law enforcement officials, who couldn’t understand how a jury could watch the videotape and return a not-guilty verdict. Perhaps the jurors found that Knowles had overreacted to Haskins’ fart and unnecessarily escalated the situation.
Texas: On December 15, 2009, 30-year-old Nathan Jones, formerly a contract guard at the Leidel Comprehensive Sanction Center in Houston, was sentenced to five months in federal prison and five months of home detention for sexual abuse of a prisoner. He admitted that in 2007 he had sex with a female prisoner in his office.
Texas: Texas law enforcement officials are searching for former prison guard Albert James Turner, 44, who is suspected of murdering his wife, Keitha, and his mother-in-law, Betty Jo Frank, on December 27, 2009. The public was ad-vised that Turner may still be wearing his Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice uniform. “He knows what goes on in prison, so who knows what he’s going to do,” said Rosenberg police Lt. Colin Davidson. “He probably wouldn’t want to go back to the place where he worked.” Turner was profiled on America’s Most Wanted; he was captured in a North Carolina shop-ping mall on March 5, 2010.
Virginia: Prisoner George Golder Phillips II, 30, shot one sheriff’s deputy in the leg and stabbed another in the face in a holding cell at the Fauquier County courthouse on December 30, 2009, while awaiting trial for bank robbery. Phillips took the gun from one of the deputies but it was not clear what he used to inflict the stab wound. Both deputies survived, though officials refused to release their identities or comment on their condition. Phillips now faces additional charges of attempted murder.
Washington: On January 28, 2010, Special Commitment Center (SCC) superintendent Kelly Cunningham disclosed to the Senate Corrections Committee that eight residents had been caught with child pornography in recent weeks. Seven other residents were found with child porn in September 2009 and are being prosecuted in federal court. The SCC is the state facility responsible for housing civilly committed sex offenders following the completion of their prison sentences. Because the residents are supposedly confined for treatment, they are not considered prisoners and have access to more privileges, including personal computers. Cunningham is asking for legislation to limit residents’ computer access. A similar request died in committee during the 2009 legislative session. The SCC has been plagued with contraband-related problems since its inception. [See: PLN, Oct. 2009, p.18].
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