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Articles by Joe Watson

IRS Audit Prompts New Mexico County to Convert Bonds Used for ICE Facility

by Joe Watson

An Internal Revenue Service audit of tax-free bonds used to develop an immigrant detention facility in New Mexico was closed once the bonds were converted to taxable status.

Otero County issued $62.3 million in tax-free revenue bonds in 2007 to finance the construction of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center in Chaparral, New Mexico. The facility is operated by a private company, Utah-based Management & Training Corp.

Over the past several years, the IRS has been conducting similar audits at local jails that contract to house prisoners for the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) or ICE. Under the tax code, the federal government is considered a private party, and private parties do not qualify for tax-free status. USMS and ICE officials have signed contracts with jails nationwide to house detainees in state and local bond-financed facilities, leading to tax disputes between the bond issuers and the IRS. [See: PLN, Sept. 2015, p.18].

According to the Bond Buyer, a trade publication, “the tax code classifies a bond as a private activity bond (PAB) if more than 10% of the proceeds are used for a private party and more than 10% of debt service payments ...

TN Prison Counselor Suspended for Posting Insults on Facebook

by Joe Watson

A counselor at the Turney Center Industrial Complex (TCIX), a close-security prison located in southwestern Tennessee, was suspended for three days after she posted profanity-laced insults on the Facebook page for the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) in April 2017, in the wake of an assault on three guards.

TCIX Warden Kevin Genovese suspended Luann Courtright Dickson without pay the following month after learning she had referred to a prisoner’s family member as “a stupid bitch” and a “fucked up idiot,” and prisoners at TCIX as “bastards.” Screenshots of those comments were obtained by PLN managing editor Alex Friedmann, who then lodged a formal complaint with the TDOC.

“Ms. Dickson was apparently unaware that the [Facebook] page is not only available for TDOC employees and their supporters, but to all members of the public – including family members whose loved ones are incarcerated (‘inmate lovers,’ as she called them),” Friedmann wrote in his complaint letter. “Beyond the fact that Ms. Dickson exercised extremely poor judgment in posting her comments on the TDOC’s Facebook page – regardless of the circumstances, which involved serious assaults on staff members at TCIX that day – her remarks ...

Wiccan Prisoner Settles with NV DOC Over Denial of Hardbound Religious Books

by Joe Watson

Donald Towne, a Nevada state prisoner and practicing Wiccan, reached a settlement of unspecified remedies in July 2008 in his pro se lawsuit against the state’s Department of Corrections (NDOC).

Towne alleged that his constitutional rights were violated during his incarceration at Lovelock Correctional Center by Warden William Donat, NDOC Director Howard Skulnick, and two other NDOC affiliates who Towne said denied him access to many Wiccan books because they were only in hardbound form. Per NDOC policy, only softbound books were allowed in the institution.

In August 2007, Towne sued Donat, Skulnick, et al., in a U.S. District Court presided over by Judge Edward C. Reed, Jr., alleging violations of his right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and due-process. Meanwhile, NDOC made several defenses including Towne’s failure to state a claim, statute of limitations, and failure to exhaust administrative remedies, before ultimately agreeing to settle with Towne. See: Towne v. Donat, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Nev.), Case No. 3:07-CV-00349.

Settlement for IN Man Deprived of Critical Meds While Incarcerated in County Jail

by Joe Watson

Gary L. Marshall, a former Hancock County, Ind. jail prisoner, settled for unspecified damages in June 2008 after he suffered multiple seizures while incarcerated, which he attributed to the jail’s alleged refusal to give him several psychotropic drugs he was prescribed for anxiety and insomnia.

Marshall was incarcerated on Sept. 13, 2004, and the next day Marshall’s son Jason brought his dad’s medications to the jail, but was told that he was only permitted medications for life-threatening issues or ailments. The jail allegedly refused to distribute any other type of drugs, including psychotropic or narcotic drugs. Over the next several days, Marshall began having health problems, including seizures so severe he was placed in a padded cell. Marshall was transported from the jail and hospitalized from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27. After he was returned to the jail, he was still allegedly denied his medications.

Two years later, Marshall filed suit against the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Nick Gulling, and jail guards Roger Sitton and Sally Aldridge in U.S. District Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983, to redress violations of his Fourteenth Amendment rights, including depriving Marshall of necessary medication while ...

NV Prisoner with Hand Injury Settles for Used TV, Medical Evaluation and $40.70 in Copying Fees

by Joe Watson

Robert Finley, a Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) prisoner, settled in August 2008 for a used television, $40.70 in legal copying fees and a medical evaluation with follow-up treatment for the hand he injured when a prison guard allegedly slammed it in a cell door.

Finley ...

IN Woman Settles Wrongful Arrest Lawsuit

by Joe Watson

Anna Michelle Young, who was wrongfully arrested and incarcerated two days after Christmas in 2003 in Hancock County, Ind., agreed to settle her suit against Sheriff Nicholas Gulling, et al, in August 2008 for unspecified damages.

The Hancock Superior Court allegedly ordered the clerk of the court to mistakenly issue a warrant for Young’s arrest on Dec. 19, 2003, for failure to appear. The warrant was served eight days later by a sheriff’s deputy who arrested Young and processed her into the Hancock County jail.

Young allegedly explained to the deputy and other jail employees that her arrest was improper, but the jail took no action to verify Young’s claims. Once she was taken before Hancock County’s superior court, the court purportedly acknowledged that she had been mistakenly arrested and detained, and it ordered Young to be immediately released.

On Dec. 21, 2005, Michael J. Tosick, attorney for Young, filed suit against Gulling, as well as two jail employees. The case was removed to U.S. District Court, and Young sought relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 1983, 1988, including the recovery of her own costs and attorney’s fees, as well as damages. The ...

$7,500,000 Class-Action Settlement for Illegal Strip-Searches in Camden, NJ

by Joe Watson

A class-action, Fourth Amendment lawsuit originally filed by Laverne Hicks and Michael Velez, two New Jersey men who had each been stopped by state police for alleged traffic violations and subsequently strip-searched and jailed by Camden County, was settled in June 2008 for $7,500,000.

Charles ...

$750,000 Settlement for MI Man Wrongfully Jailed for Murder of Girlfriend's Infant Son

by Joe Watson

Matthew Ditzhazy, who was acquitted of charges that he murdered his girlfriend’s 19-month-old son, reached a $750,000 settlement agreement in July 2008 with the city of Lincoln Park, Mich., near Detroit, where he spent a year and a half in jail.

Three adults were in the ...

$500,000 Settlement for Shackled IL Man Thrown from County Jail Transport Van

by Joe Watson

A man who was shackled, handcuffed, and in custody when he was thrown out of a moving, Jefferson County, Illinois transport van was awarded $500,000 in July 2008 after his estate settled in U.S. district court.

The estate of Torrie D. Daniels, represented by Office ...

$255,000 Jury Award for Man Beaten by IL Jail Guards After Judge Grants Remittitur

by Joe Watson

Donald Martin, Jr., had been awarded $780,000 in compensatory and punitive damages by a federal jury in July 2008 after he’d sued Cook County, Ill., Sheriff Michael Sheahan and the jail guards who had beaten him as a pre-trial detainee in 2006. But U.S. District ...


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