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Contempt Motion Filed after Pennsylvania Officials Refuse to Release Detainee

Officials at Pennsylvania’s York County Prison face a contempt motion filed by an attorney on behalf of a terminally ill pre-trial detainee. The motion claims the officials refused to comply with a court order for the prisoner’s release.

Thomas Nathan Redding, 33, traveled from California to Pennsylvania to visit his parents in June 2016, where he was charged with fleeing an attempted traffic stop. On June 23, 2017, Redding was arrested for an outstanding warrant on the 2016 case, which in turn led to a probation violation warrant in Maryland from a prior burglary conviction.

Redding’s attorney, Jay Whittle, petitioned the York County Common Pleas Court to release his client. The motion was based partly on health concerns, as Redding was in the terminal stages of pancreatic cancer. By July 2017, he had posted $100,000 bail on his new criminal charge, waived extradition to Maryland and had the detainer lifted.

York County Judge Harry Ness said that Redding’s continued incarceration in York County “sounds like unlawful imprisonment,” as there was no longer a legal basis to hold him. The judge entered an order requiring Redding’s “release forthwith,” stating he was to be placed on house arrest and GPS monitoring pending prosecution of the charge for fleeing a traffic stop. Redding still faced extradition to Maryland.

According to Whittle’s contempt motion, York County Prison records officer Debbie Owens-Kilburn wrote in an e-mail to the probation department that Redding “will not be released to MD until the charges are satisfied in PA even with the bail posted.” The motion also claimed that probation officer Kim Hilt had “unlawfully refused to conduct an intake until [Redding’s] charges in Pennsylvania are disposed of, which if trial is sought, could be all of another year.”

“Every day they keep him in prison is a death sentence,” Whittle said.

It was not until 10 days after Redding waived extradition that the prison or probation office notified Maryland authorities of the waiver. Under Pennsylvania law, out-of-state authorities have 14 days to take physical custody of a prisoner or detainee who has waived extradition or been ordered extradited.

“The 14-day period commenced on July 7, 2017, not at the prison’s convenience,” the contempt motion stated. “Mr. Redding avers that the individuals involved, at least on his case, seem to operate on a schedule of their choosing and in clear violation of the law.”

Redding was subsequently extradited to Maryland and was expected to be released after answering to his probation violation. That, Whittle said, did not resolve the contempt motion. “Absolutely not,” he said, since prison officials “were still in violation” for failing to comply with Judge Ness’ order for Redding’s release. 


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