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News in Brief:

Alabama: Jonathan Windham, 24, was acquitted of manslaughter on October 4, 2011 in connection with the January 2009 death of Northwest Florida Reception Center prison guard Timothy Fowler. Fowler had an altercation with Windham over a card game, and Windham hit him in self-defense. Medical evidence indicated that Fowler died not from the blow but from a subdural hematoma. The judge acquitted Windham by directed verdict, before the case went to the jury.

Alabama: On October 17, 2011, St. Clair Correctional Facility prisoner Jabari Leon Bascomb, 22, was stabbed to death during a fight with another prisoner. “We do have a suspect,” said Alabama DOC public information manager Brian Corbett. “At this time, it’s still under investigation.” Bascomb was a juvenile when he was charged with murdering a 65-year-old man in 2007; he was serving a 22-year sentence for that crime at the time he was killed.

Arizona: Former Arizona prison guard Robert Joseph Hamm, 32, pleaded guilty on October 12, 2011 to repeatedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl. When confronted, Hamm denied having a sexual relationship with the girl but said “[a]nything was possible while he is passed out from alcohol,” according to court records. Hamm was sentenced on December 1, 2011 to one year in prison and 7½ years probation; he will also have to register as a sex offender.

Arizona: On Oct. 21, 2011, former Maricopa County jail guard Kevin Gerster, 35, was sentenced to one year in prison for assaulting two prisoners and improperly accessing law enforcement records to obtain the home address of an ex-prisoner. Video footage from the jail showed Gerster stepping on the neck of a restrained prisoner and punching another prisoner in the face. He also gave a friend the address of a former prisoner who was dating his friend’s ex-wife; his friend then assaulted the couple with a box cutter.

Brazil: In Sept. 2011, a 14-year-old girl reported to police that she had been drugged and taken to a men’s prison, where she was raped by prisoners for four days. The girl escaped with the help of a guard; police officials suspect she was taken to the Heleno Fragoso prison to be prostituted. The prison director and 19 other employees were fired. “The facts show a violation of human dignity, a disrespect of the basic rights of this child, a serious violation of human rights,” said Alan Mansur Silva, a regional federal prosecutor.

California: Brothers Gary and Chong Vue were convicted in late Sept. 2011 of first-degree murder in connection with the 2008 shooting death of California prison guard Steve Lo. Lo was reportedly killed because he was having an affair with the wife of Chu Vue, the older brother of Gary and Chong. Chu, a former Sacramento sheriff’s deputy, had been convicted on Sept. 29, 2010 of arranging Lo’s murder. [See: PLN, July 2011, p.41]. All three Vues received life sentences.

California: According to an autopsy, Michael Thomas Graham, 50, incarcerated at the Wasco State Prison, was beaten to death on October 10, 2011. Graham’s cellmate, Joseph Hyungmin Son, 40, is suspected of killing him. Son, a part-time actor, had starred in an Austin Powers movie before he was convicted of torture in connection with a rape, and received a life sentence. Graham was serving two years for failing to register as a sex offender.

California: In October 2011, a Fresno Sheriff’s Department bus transporting prisoners hit a tractor-trailer that had turned in front of it, resulting in significant damage. Fortunately both the guards and prisoners were wearing seat belts, though there were still injuries. “Everybody was complaining of pain to arms, legs, shoulders, nothing major,” said California Highway Patrol officer Ryan Smith. “There were seat belts on there, just the impact was pretty severe.” The prisoners were taken to a Kern County hospital for evaluation.

China: According to an Oct. 26, 2011 news report, prisoners at a jail in Behei province were purchasing luxury items from guards, including cell phones, pure-breed dogs and alcohol. An investigation of the jail following an escape revealed lax security measures and extensive contraband smuggling by staff that included chow chows, a Chinese dog breed. The warden was fired and two guards were arrested.

Colorado: On October 11, 2011, a sheriff’s deputy fatally shot a Jefferson County jail prisoner who was trying to es-cape during a medical appointment at the Advanced Medical Imaging center in Golden. “Once inside the facility he attempted to escape by fleeing down a common area hallway,” said Police Sgt. Ryan Custer. “The deputy fired one time striking the suspect. No other people were injured during the escape attempt.” The prisoner, Jesus Octavio Aguilar, 28, was unarmed and not in handcuffs at the time of his unsuccessful escape.

Delaware: In October 2011, the Delaware State Police arrested David S. Benson, 50, a state youth probation officer and former police officer. Benson was charged with a home invasion and assault that occurred on January 20, 2011 near Seaford. He was suspended with pay from his position as a senior probation and parole officer. Benson allegedly wore a mask when he broke into the house of a woman who had refused his advances; he had been her son’s youth officer. DNA evidence linked Benson to the home invasion and assault. He had previously exhibited unusual conduct, such as repeatedly visiting the woman’s home, even after her son was no longer on probation, and one time put on the woman’s lingerie while at her house.

Florida: A former CCA guard at the Hernando County Jail was acquitted on October 12, 2011 of raping a female co-worker in 2008. Gregory Heiser, 45, was accused of raping the 42-year-old victim, who was not identified, when they were both employed at the CCA-run jail, which has been operated by the Sheriff’s office since August 2010. Heiser said the sex was consensual, and claimed the woman cried rape after he rejected her invitation to go to the beach the next day. Heiser was also accused of having sex with an underage girl in an unrelated incident, but that case was dismissed.

Florida: Last month, PLN reported that the Florida Dept. of Corrections had imposed a ban on smoking. [See: PLN, Jan. 2012, p.50]. The ban was modified in October 2011 due to resistance from the Florida Police Benevolent Association, which until recently represented state prison guards. The union argued that a smoking ban must be negotiated under their contract with the state. The revised policy allows guards, employees and visitors to smoke in areas not in plain view of prisoners.

Iowa: A prisoner who held a leadership role in a United Methodist congregation at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women, and who had been hired by the church group as an administrative assistant after her release, has been charged with stealing the identities of church volunteers. Shelley Bridges, 37, faces a felony charge related to identity theft involving 40 volunteers who participated in the prison congregation; she used their personal information, including Social Security numbers, to obtain credit cards in their names. “We’re hoping that people will remain committed to the mission of this congregation and the work that we do with these women,” said the Rev. Lee Schott.

Louisiana: State prisoner Sylvester Miller, 38, was hit by a car on October 14, 2011 while working on a road crew in Alexandria, and died five days later. Kelly Tuttle, 38, drove off the road and her Jeep Liberty struck Miller, the prison work van and a sanitation truck. Tuttle, who suffered minor injuries, was charged in November with vehicular homicide, first-degree vehicle negligent injury and careless operation of a vehicle. A city sanitation worker also was injured in the incident.

New York: Cameron Douglas, 33, the son of Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas, pleaded guilty on October 20, 2011 to a federal narcotics possession charge. Cameron was serving a five-year sentence for meth-related offenses and cooperating with a federal drug investigation when he caught the new charge. He was reportedly found with heroin and cocaine in his prison cell. Cameron was sentenced on Dec. 21, 2011 to 4½ years on the new drug charge, with the judge citing his “history of reckless behavior” and violation of prison rules as justification for the sentence.

Sweden: Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsman ruled in October 2011 that guards at the Västervik Norra prison should not have interrupted a prisoner who was having sex with his fiancée during an authorized visit. The fiancée had brought her infant daughter with her, who was asleep in a stroller at the time. The guards scolded the prisoner for having sex while the child was present in the room. The prisoner’s fiancée filed a complaint against the guards for “insulting and invasive” conduct. “To barge into the visiting room at such a sensitive moment constitutes a huge invasion into the inmate’s and his visitor’s personal privacy and requires great tact and consideration,” stated Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Cecilia Nordenfelt.

Texas: On October 12, 2011, the Texas Court of Appeals declared that Michael Morton was innocent of murdering his wife. Morton served almost 25 years of a life sentence for his wife’s 1986 death. DNA from the crime scene was eventually linked to another suspect; Morton, now 57, had been convicted based on circumstantial evidence. The Innocence Project assisted in exonerating Morton and uncovered evidence that the original prosecutor in the case, Ken Anderson, now a district judge in Williamson County, had concealed exculpatory evidence.

Unknown: The hacker group “Anonymous” took credit in an October 2011 press release for computer attacks on various police organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the Boston Police Patrolmens’ Association, the Baldwin County (Alabama) Sheriff’s Office and the Matrix Group, a web development firm that serves government and corporate clients, including the IACP. Anonymous hacked the sites “in solidarity with the [Occupy Wallstreet] Movement and the International Day of Action Against Police Brutality,” and targeted the police “because they are the vicious boot boys of the 1% whose role in society is to protect the interests and assets of the rich ruling class.”

Washington: A female suspect being questioned at the Burlington Police Department on October 7, 2011 decided not to wait to be transferred to the county jail. She climbed into the drop ceiling in an attempt to escape, but ended up falling through the ceiling panels into the police chief’s office. Following that incident, the city council approved $4,000 in emergency funds to install hard ceilings in interview rooms at the police station.

Washington: A naked jail prisoner was shot and killed by a county corrections officer on Oct. 21, 2011, while trying to escape from a hospital where he had been taken after a suicide attempt. The prisoner, John Gary Lies, 40, armed with a knife, took a woman hostage in a parking lot after tearing off his hospital gown and fleeing from the Grays Harbor Community Hospital. Investigators are looking into whether the suicide attempt was part of Lies’ escape plan, to get him to the hospital. The shooting was deemed justified.

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