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Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Derek Gilna

Florida Court Permits Female Prisoner's Lawsuit for Forced Sex with Guard to Go Forward

By Derek Gilna

A Florida District Court has permitted parts of a lawsuit by a female prisoner for being forced into sex by a male prison guard to go forward, finding that questions of fact precluded whether he was negligently supervised and retained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The prisoner, Bobbie Bolton, was coerced into having sex with Jeffrey Linton, A BOP prison guard, according to the facts alleged in the complaint.

Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), prisoner Bolton was obligated to pursue administrative remedies prior to commencing a lawsuit. After being confronted at the initial, "informal resolution" stage, Linton resigned, ending the administrative process. The court held that Bolton was not required to go further in the administrative review process because of that resignation. The court also held that although Bolton presented no evidence as to negligent hiring or training by the government, she did offer evidence that "when viewed with all inferences in her favor as required for summary judgment purposes, would support a finding that Captain Ron Horton (Linton's supervisor) knew that Ms. Bolton was at risk of an attack by Mr. Linton but failed to act."

The court also permitted ...

9th Circuit Rejects Prisoner Self-Defense Theory in Assault with Shank

By Derek Gilna

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 9th Circuit has declined to permit prisoner Lenny Urena from asserting "self-defense" in his trial for assault with a dangerous weapon against a fellow prisoner. The Court also rejected Urena's claim that the District Court violated his Confrontation Clause rights by refusing to allow him to cross-examine the treating physician about the cause of the victim's injuries. Finally, the court declined to retroactively apply "recency points" to reduce his sentence, affirming the district court's decision.

Prisoner Urena, while in a federal holding facility, was attacked by another prisoner who called him a "bitch," a very insulting word in most prison settings. There was a later altercation when the original attacker was cut by a "shank," allegedly wielded by Urena.

According to the court, "the privilege of claiming self-defense as a justification for an assault is constrained by the need for an immediate threat of unlawful force, and the need for the action to be commensurate with the threat, with no more force used than reasonably necessary to meet it." The court then characterized Urena as the principal attacker, not entitled to assert the "self-defense" doctrine.

The Appellate ...

Former Ohio Sheriff Sentenced to One Year of House Arrest for Theft and Ethics Violations

By Derek Gilna

Gerald T. McFaul was Sheriff of Cuyahoga County, Ohio for decades, but the 76-year old Democrat was contrite as he apologized to the people of Cuyahoga County for theft and ethics violations. He could have been sentenced for up to ten years in jail, but Judge Inderlied chose to sentence him to one year of house arrest, McFaul’s poor health as a mitigating factor. He will be forced to wear an ankle bracelet that will monitor his movements to make sure that he remains at home.

"I am very sorry, and that what I did to my wife and family..." McFaul said at sentencing, where more than 50 of his relatives and friends were in the courtroom.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer conducted an investigation into allegations of criminal wrongdoing that eventually led to his indictment and conviction. McFaul was in office for more than forty years, and had been accused of personally profiting from the operation of the Sheriff's Office. According to the Plain Dealer, "McFaul cheated the county of thousands of dollars by forcing workers to sell tickets to his [fundraising] clambakes while on duty. He admitted he allowed employees to sell the tickets ...

Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Malicious Prosecution and Evidence Concealment Case against Boston Police Department

By Derek Gilna

In a well-reasoned opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has permitted a Section 1983 action against the Boston Police Department (BPD) to continue. James Haley had accused the BPD of concealing exculpatory evidence that resulted in him serving over thirty years for a murder that he did not commit. Haley had already been released from prison when, according to the opinion, "the discovery of previously undisclosed evidence resulted in the vacation of his conviction."

Haley had been convicted of the July 11, 1971 murder of David Myers, in large part based upon the false testimony of a witness who claimed that she had seen him at the scene of the murder, supposedly brandishing a gun and a knife. Prior to trial, Haley's attorney had filed with the court a blanket motion for discovery for production of all evidence, including that favorable to the defense, including potential impeachment material. The state, in its response to this discovery request, did not furnish the original statements made by the alleged witnesses relating to Haley, which differed substantially from their subsequent testimony at his trial. These inconsistencies would have been useful to Haley at trial ...

Fourth Circuit Reverses Injunction Relating to Publication of Social Security Number on Virginia Land-Transfer Records

By Derek Gilna

The appeal arose from a First Amendment challenge to Virginia's Personal Information Privacy Act, Va. Code Sec. 59.1-442 to 444, part of which prohibits “[i]ntentionally communicat[ing] another individual's social security number to the general public.” The district court ruled that this was unconstitutional, as applied to an advocacy website that criticized Virginia's release of private information and showed publicly available Virginia land records containing unredacted Social Security Numbers. The court entered a permanent injunction barring Virginia from punishing the republication of "publicly obtainable documents containing unredacted Social Security Numbers of Virginia legislators, Virginia Executive Officers or Clerks of Court as part at an effort to reform Virginia law in the area of online publication.”

In a long discussion relating the history of First Amendment rights, and applying those to the areas of the expectation at privacy in one's social security number, the court recognized the fact that the injunction was overbroad, concluding that "the district court abused its discretion by not tailor[ing] the scope of the remedy to fit the nature and extent of the constitutional violation... [and] We thus reverse the district court's June 2, 2009 decision ...

Human Rights Watch Report Faults ICE for Improper Treatment of Mentally Disabled Aliens

By Derek Gilna

A 2010 study by Human Rights Watch highlights abuses suffered by mentally disabled aliens, both legal and illegal. According to Human Rights Watch, "Every year, several hundred thousand people in the United States are arrested for possible deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The vast majority are held in immigration detention, both during and even after their deportation hearings... At least 15 percent of these immigration detainees—an estimated 57,000 people in 2008—are thought to have a mental disability, some so severe... they do not know their own names or do not understand that deportation means removal from the country."

The report states that "The US immigration court system is complicated and adversarial at the best of times... [but] may be particularly confusing for people with mental disabilities, who may find it hard to follow proceedings, or provide credible evidence to lawyers and judges, especially without legal representation and adequate support."

The report drew its information upon which it based its conclusions from 104 interviews "with non-citizens with mental disabilities, their family members, social workers, psychiatrists, immigration attorneys, judges and rights advocates..." The study concluded that the "human rights of affected individuals" are violated ...

Michigan Supreme Court Reverses Its Own Decision Allocating Greater Funding for State’s Public Defender Offices

By Derek Gilna

In an unusual decision, criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Michigan Supreme Court on July 17 reversed itself and threw out a lawsuit that would have required the State of Michigan to provide more funds for poor people accused of crimes to hire attorneys. "We are shocked and disturbed by the Supreme Court's about-face, said Michael J. Steinberg of the Michigan chapter of the ACLU." Today's order prevents us from proving what most observers already know-Michigan's justice system is broken for poor people accused of crimes."

The court had already upheld court decisions favoring the lawsuit of eight men and women convicted of crimes in Berrien, Genesee, and Muskegon counties against the state of Michigan, and Governor Jennifer Granhol, which sought consistent state funding for the criminal justice defense system operated and funded by the state's 83 counties.

The reversal of the court's previous decision came about as a result of motion for reconsideration of this Court's April 30, 2010 order, and reversed that June 11, 2009 judgment of the Court of Appeals, and granted the defendants motion for summary disposition, adopting the dissenting opinion of the Court of ...

Seattle Federal Halfway House Case Manager’s Reentry Plan for Prisoner Allegedly Included Sex, Heroin

A former case manager at Pioneer Fellowship House, a halfway house in Seattle, Washington, has been accused of having a sexual relationship with one of the released prisoners she supervised and providing him with money to buy heroin.

According to records filed in federal court by Special Agent Wayne Hawney with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, the former halfway house employee, who quit her position in March 2011, befriended the ex-prisoner after he was released from federal prison upon completing a sentence for robbing numerous banks.

PLN contacted both the OIG’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office, but both declined to provide the name of the case manager or the former prisoner involved in the investigation. PLN later determined the ex-prisoner was Christopher S. Webb. We have not yet determined the identity of the case manager.

The matter came to light after Webb, described as a habitual heroin user in court records, absconded from the half-way house, saying he would fail a drug test administered by another worker at the facility. He then offered to provide evidence against the case manager, whom he claimed had given him money ...

Federal Bureau of Prisons Says DNA Backlog No Longer Exists

In July 2011, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced that it had eliminated a backlog of over 90,000 DNA samples from federal prisoners. This milestone occurred more than a decade after Congress passed the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act in 2000.

Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan, who had drawn attention to the backlog, was pleased with the long-delayed results. “DNA is an extremely important and effective tool for law enforcement,” he stated. “I will continue to work with the Bureau of Prisons to ensure that DNA evidence is available in a timely manner to help prevent violent crimes in the future.”

DNA samples are now taken from BOP prisoners when they enter the prison system rather than when they leave, and the samples are processed within 30 days after receipt by the FBI laboratory.

According to a September 2011 report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Justice, “Our review determined that as of September 2010, the FBI Laboratory’s Federal DNA Database Unit had effectively eliminated its backlog of convicted offender, arrestee, and detainee DNA samples. We determined that the FBI reduced this backlog from over 312,000 samples in December ...

Connecticut District Court Finds ICE Agents Not Shielded from Bivens Liability; Suit Settles for $350,000

In a lawsuit brought by the Yale Law Clinic on behalf of Hispanics swept up in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in New Haven in June 2007, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut held that ICE officials are not immune from liability for federal ...


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