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News in Brief
Kentucky: Former state prison guard Ted Ray Schlenker, who operates a gun shop called Kentucky Gun Runners, was arrested on April 28, 2012 after sending a threatening letter and a 9mm pistol to an ATF agent who was investigating Schlenker’s activities. He was charged in federal court in May 2012 with mailing threatening communications and mailing a firearm.
Kentucky: In May 2012, former Greenup County Detention Center guard Causetta Michelle Tackett, 24, received a 10-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to first-degree drug trafficking and first-degree promoting contraband. Tackett and her husband, Charles, were arrested in August 2011 and accused of selling drugs to prisoners. She had requested probation, which the judge said he could not grant “in good conscience” given the nature of the charges and her prior position as a guard.
Louisiana: Former federal prison guard Brandon Ray Willis, 27, was sentenced on May 4, 2012 to 71 months in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to smuggle drugs into USP Pollock. He had met with an undercover agent and agreed to bring heroin and methamphetamine into the facility. In addition to the prison term, Willis was ordered to serve three years on supervised release and pay a $5,000 fine.
Massachusetts: On June 4, 2012, New York City Rikers Island guard Shawn Bryan shot and killed police officer Kevin Ambrose during a domestic disturbance call at the Springfield apartment of Bryan’s ex-girlfriend. Bryan also shot his ex-girlfriend, who was hospitalized in critical condition, before committing suicide. A restraining order had been issued against Bryan less than an hour before the incident occurred.
New Jersey: Former federal prison guard Joe Brown, 39, pleaded guilty on June 12, 2012 to charges of accepting $3,600 to smuggle contraband into FCI Fairton between January and March 2012. He had taken the bribes to deliver tobacco and vitamin supplements to a prisoner, and also took around 900 postage stamps out of the facility for the prisoner’s benefit. Brown is scheduled to be sentenced on September 18, 2012.
Norway: When government workers went on strike in May 2012, including employees at the Bjoergvin prison outside Bergen, prison officials had to release 52 prisoners. Four were released on probation while the rest received five-day fur-loughs. “Some of these are prisoners convicted for violence, drugs, economic crime and sex crimes,” said prison manager Harald Aasaune. Bjoergvin is an open facility where prisoners can move freely. Norway has one of the most progressive prison systems in the world, with a focus on rehabilitation rather than punitive incarceration.
Pennsylvania: Cambria County prisoner Travis Simms, 28, was acquitted at a jury trial on June 1, 2012 of felony charges that he had assaulted a guard who was trying to break up a fight between Simms and another prisoner. According to Simms, he got into a physical altercation when the other prisoner made a sexual remark about his young daughter, and pushed the guard when he intervened. The guard, Terry Shean, suffered a bruised arm. Simms spent over 200 days in solitary confinement at the county prison in addition to being prosecuted; he was represented by the public defender’s office.
Russia: Prison guard Alexander Zainulin, 37, who was drunk on vodka and irritated by other customers at a grocery store in Kamchatka, pulled out a gun, fired several rounds into the ceiling and told people in the store to “stay still and shut up.” He then shot three of the customers during the March 7, 2012 incident. Zainulin was arrested and released with a written pledge not to leave town. The charges against him, including attempted murder, were later reduced to simple hooliganism; if convicted he faces up to 8 years in prison.
South Africa: Government officials announced in April 2012 that they were pardoning almost 35,000 offenders to reduce overcrowding in the nation’s criminal justice system. The pardons, called special remissions of sentence, commemorated the anniversary of Nelson Mandela winning South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994, and included 14,600 prisoners and 20,000 offenders on parole or probation. Prisoners convicted of sex, weapons and drug-related crimes were not eligible for the pardons.
Tennessee: In May 2012, former Knox County criminal court judge Richard Baumgartner was indicted in federal court on seven counts of misprision of a felony. He was accused of being addicted to prescription drugs and not reporting the commission of felony crimes. Baumgartner had resigned from the bench in 2011 and was disbarred after pleading guilty to state charges of official misconduct for having sex and buying drugs during courtroom breaks. He received a suspended two-year sentence and pretrial diversion in that case. The federal charges are related to Baumgartner interceding in criminal cases involving his mistress, Deena Castleman.
Tennessee: Another ex-state court judge was indicted in May 2012. Former Hawkins County general sessions judge James Taylor, 41, was accused of filing false claims with the Administrative Office of the Courts, and was indicted on 41 counts of theft.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Taylor had requested payment for legal services he did not perform. He was jailed on $175,000 bond.
Texas: Former federal prison guard Kraig D. Lavan pleaded guilty on April 18, 2012 to one count of sexual abuse of a ward. He was prosecuted for engaging in a “sexual act” with a female prisoner at FMC Carswell, and is scheduled to be sentenced in October 2012. Lavan had previously worked for the Hood County Sheriff’s Department.
Texas: Jorge Luis Sandoval, 31, a guard at the East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa operated by LCS Corrections Services, pleaded guilty on July 3, 2012 to federal charges of accepting a bribe while acting under the authority of the U.S. Marshals Service. Sandoval allegedly took the bribe to smuggle a cell phone to a prisoner held at the facility. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
Virginia: On March 18, 2012, Mark Daniel Sharp, 43, was released from the Riverside Regional Jail. He was arrested later that same day for attempted carjacking, after a woman said he approached her in a parking lot, claimed to have a weapon and told her to give him her car keys. Sharp was quickly apprehended, booked back into the jail and held without bond.
Washington: A vacant state prison camp where prisoners were once trained to fight forest fires will be burned down as part of a training exercise, according to a June 2012 news report. The 180-bed Indian Ridge Correctional Facility near Arlington has been abandoned since 2005. Snohomish County Fire District 21 is working with state officials to schedule a timeline for demolishing the camp, which will be replanted with trees and turned over to Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.
Wisconsin: On March 22, 2012, a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department transport bus clipped an 18-wheeler near Interstate 43 and Holt Avenue. The bus, which was transporting 22 prisoners from the County Correctional Facility-South to attend court hearings, was changing lanes to avoid a disabled vehicle at the time of the accident. Four prisoners were taken to a hospital for evaluation of neck and back pain.
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