By Kyle Feldscher
A lawsuit (PDF) filed in Washtenaw County on behalf of seven juvenile prisoners alleges prison staff coerced one teenager into having sex and many other corrections officers ignored sexual abuse and physical assaults.
The lawsuit filed Monday in the Washtenaw County Trial Court names the Michigan Department Of Corrections, numerous officials in the department and Gov. Rick Snyder as defendants.
The crux of the plaintiffs’ allegations comes from their assertion that the MDOC has failed to adequately separate juvenile prisoners from adult prisoners, as required by law.
Seven unnamed prisoners are listed as the plaintiffs in the case, which is also pending in federal court in Detroit. According to the lawsuit, at least two plaintiffs were raped repeatedly because cellmates were selling access to their cell — and MDOC staff members were aware.
“MDOC staff was aware of assaults and aware that male adult prisoners were paying John Doe 5’s cellmate for access to John Doe 5 for purposes of sexually assaulting him,” the lawsuit states.
MDOC Public Information Officer Russ Marlan did not return a message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
The case was originally filed in Washtenaw County in October, but was dismissed by the plaintiffs after the defendants attempted to transfer the case to the Court of Claims. The case has been refiled, citing violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Ann Arbor attorney Deborah LeBelle filed the lawsuit. She said she’d been aware of high instances of sexual abuse of young prisoners, but was shocked by the plaintiffs’ stories.
She said she was also disturbed by the fact that children as young as 13 can be put into adult prisons in Michigan. The decision to allow those children into adult prison raises the chances of recidivism and puts those kids in danger, she said.
“I didn’t know the extent of the damage those choices had wrought in Michigan until I started talking to the youth,” she said. “And, I found it heartbreaking.”
More than half of the seven plaintiffs — not all of whom are from Washtenaw County — could have served the entirety of their sentences in juvenile facilities, LaBelle said. Instead, all of them were subjected to adult prisons.
LaBelle said she was also extremely disturbed that these child prisoners would be put into solitary confinement and MDOC staff would use Tasers on them.
“If you put all of these together, I saw it as a tragic waste,” she said.
The lawsuit states MDOC staff failed to separate juvenile prisoners from adult prisoners by sight and sound as required by law; failed to adequately supervise juvenile prisoners; failed to properly train, monitor, discipline or regulate prison staff and still fails to implement proper policies and procedures to identify and house young prisoners.
The class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of more than 500 children — between ages 14 and 17 — who have entered adult prisons since 2010, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit states the young prisoners who are, were or will be in adult prisons in Michigan have been, or will be, subjected to sexual and physical assaults, abuse, sexual harassment, degrading treatment because they haven’t been housed, supervised or separated from adults adequately.
The lawsuit states that having young prisoners in contact with adult prisoners resulted in the youths getting more punishment, degrading treatment, solitary confinement and being deprived of rehabilitative programming and educational services.
The MDOC is also failing to meet standards set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, according to the lawsuit. The act states no prisoner under the age of 18 should have sight, sound or physical contact with adult prisoners.
The 32-page document details some disturbing incidents each of the seven plaintiffs has had to endure while in prison. All seven plaintiffs report sexual assaults, with many reporting violent rapes, of which MDOC staff members were aware.
At least two plaintiffs allege they were coerced into sex with female MDOC officers.
“From late 2012 until early 2013, a female MDOC staff member repeatedly opened John Doe 4’s cell for purposes of engaging in coerced sexual intercourse with him,” the lawsuit states.
In the case of John Doe 2, the lawsuit alleges an MDOC staff member opened the prisoner’s cell to allow an adult prisoner to assault him. That same prisoner was put into solitary confinement for reporting sexual abuse.
“Upon his release from solitary confinement, John Doe 2 was physically assaulted again with a knife,” the lawsuit states, “resulting in a scar across the face and marking him as a victim and as an ongoing target for other prisoners.”
The lawsuit accuses the MDOC of four different violations of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Creating a sexually hostile prison atmosphere, failing to prevent and to remedy a sexually hostile prison environment, aiding and abetting violations of ELCRA and age discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed in the Washtenaw County Trial Court because the plaintiffs are seeking more than $25,000 in damages. The lawsuit asks the court to award “punitive and exemplary damages where appropriate” along with reasonable costs and fees.
Further allegations include the plaintiffs being subjected to cross-gender searches, pat-downs and viewings while showering and performing basic bodily functions.
Officials at the state level of the MDOC are named, along with the wardens of Carson City Correctional Facility, Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center, Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility, Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, Richard A Handlon Correctional Facility, Oaks Correctional Facility, Thumb Correctional Facility, Chippewa Correctional Facility, Marquette Branch Prison and Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility.
Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Carol Kuhnke issued a protective order banning defense attorneys from interviewing the plaintiffs in the case until a Jan. 8 hearing. According to a motion filed by the plaintiffs on Monday, defense attorneys had been abusive in interviews when the lawsuit was previously filed.
Among the accusations are that the seven plaintiffs were told to sign affidavits prepared by defense attorneys and to sign confidentiality agreements that would have specifically mentioned their own attorneys.
“One youth was told that if he was asked about being raped or harmed, he ‘better not say a word,’” the motion stated.
Friday, December 13, 2013
By Jeff Chirico
DULUTH (CBS ATLANTA) - A Duluth High School senior has been suspended for one year and won't graduate on time for hugging a teacher last month.
Sam McNair, 17, was suspended last week when a school hearing officer found he violated the Gwinnett County Public Schools' rules on sexual harassment.
"Something so innocent can be perceived as something totally opposite," said McNair.
A video of the hug, captured by a surveillance camera, shows McNair enter a room, place his arms around the back and front of the teacher and tuck his head behind her neck.
According to a discipline report, the teacher alleged McNair's cheeks and lips touched the back of her neck and cheek.
McNair denied he kissed his teacher or sexually harassed her.
McNair said he regularly hugs his teachers and has never been disciplined for it in the past.
According to the discipline report, the teacher alleged she warned McNair that hugs were inappropriate but he disputes that.
April McNair, Sam's mother, said she was dumbfounded when she was informed of the suspension and believes the district had a responsibility to notify her if her son's hugging was becoming problematic before it suspended him and derailed his college plans.
Hear about the serious issues going on within the walls of Coalinga State Hospital recently. Patients within the facilty have been assaulted & violently attacked by a handful of staff/officers. Tune in. This show is extremely important.
BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP (WPVI) - A former police chief in Berks County is facing a list of charges, including possession and distribution of child pornography.
Authorities say former Brecknock Township Chief Robert Geist was one of the largest distributors of child pornography in Pennsylvania in the month of June.
Police say 44-year-old Robert Geist has at times been Pennsylvania's most prolific distributor of child porn.
According to WFMZ, Geist was appointed as police chief in Brecknock Township in 2011, but was fired in October 2012.
Berks County District Attorney John Adams tells WFMZ that there was never any criminal investigation of Geist conducted in Berks County.
Officials say his firing had nothing to do with child pornography.
The investigation began last summer when New Britain Detective Jeffrey Cummins was searching traditional child porn sites on the internet as part of a state and federal task force crack down on child porn distributors.
"I located the computer that at the time was the number one offender in Pennsylvania for child pornography," said Detective Cummins.
Police say the internet address sharing the child porn was found in the Bedminister Township home of Robert Geist's father.
Police served a warrant and launched a major raid of the home in the summer.
Police say as they closed in on the house, Geist's father yelled a warning to his son.
Police found Geist sitting at a computer trying to erase evidence.
Police say they recovered material depicting children in sexual situations and even a depiction of a child being raped.
"The people who used this network are not making any money. They are not selling it. People will simply get files from other individuals and once they have them, they offer them to other individuals," explained Detective Cummins.
Neighbors in the rural community are shocked to learn about the allegation against Geist.
"He's always been very friendly. It is very scary," said one mother who did not want to be identified.
Robert Geist surrendered Tuesday to Bucks County authorities. He was charged, arraigned, and then released on unsecured bail.
Geist is charged with viewing and distributing child porn on the internet. He is free on bail, released on his own signature.
His attorney did not return calls for comment.
CA - Legal payouts involving former Sacramento County sheriff’s deputy (Donald Black) now accused in molestation case totaled more than $2 million
By KIM MINUGH
Once referred to by a local attorney as the “Million Dollar Man,” a former sheriff’s deputy cost the county of Sacramento more than $2 million in awards and settlements during his 23 years on the force.
By the time Donald Black retired Oct. 1 following his arrest on suspicion of child molestation and steroid possession, his actions had resulted in at least 10 payouts by the county, most of them involving excessive force allegations, according to a spreadsheet provided to The Sacramento Bee in response to a Public Records Act request. The largest payout – $1.5 million – went to a woman who had a 3-inch chunk of flesh taken out of her calf by Black’s then-K-9 partner. In another case, according to a court complaint, Black and another deputy allegedly terrified a man during a traffic stop by pointing an unloaded pellet gun at his head and pulling the trigger.
Black, who was arrested by Nevada County authorities in September, retired from the department before the conclusion of two internal administrative investigations initiated by his arrest.
Even some who are familiar with Black’s controversial history expressed shock at the $2 million total payout – and questioned how a deputy who had become such a financial liability managed to keep his job.
“It’s utterly amazing…. This guy is off the charts,” said local attorney Stewart Katz, who represented the man awarded $90,000 in the pellet gun incident.
“It would (have been) cheaper for him to never work a day,” Katz said.
At the time that he retired, Black, 43, earned about $95,000 annually, including educational incentive pay. He has begun to draw his pension, totaling almost $5,400 per month, according to county spokeswoman Chris Andis. Even if Black is convicted of any of the charges he faces, he is likely to remain eligible for that money, according to guidelines in the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2014.
The extent to which Black’s bosses tried to discipline him remains unclear, because of privacy laws protecting his personnel history. But court records show he was disciplined in at least two cases, though an arbitrator reversed some of that discipline. County Sheriff Scott Jones said he could not discuss Black, his record or his criminal case.
Black’s criminal attorney, Shannon Baker, declined to comment or make her client available to speak to The Bee.
Black is scheduled to return to Nevada Superior Court today for a hearing in his criminal case. On Nov. 4, he was arraigned on five felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child and four misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance – in this case, steroids. He pleaded not guilty.
According to court records, Black is accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with a relative between June 2006 and July 2007, when the boy was 14 or 15 years old. The records describe three different instances of alleged abuse.
The victim, now an adult, came forward with the allegations on Sept. 20, according to documents associated with a temporary restraining order protecting the victim from contact with Black.
During the course of the investigation, Black’s ex-wife, Lisa Stambaugh, told detectives she worried that she and her family would be in danger when the allegations became public. She said Black had threatened to “off himself” before, and that she feared he would kill her before killing himself, according to the court documents.
Stambaugh described Black as “nuts,” and said he had kept in contact with informants he worked with during his time as a narcotics detective.
“Stambaugh advised (that) Black has made comments that if he needed something done, ‘things can be handled,’” according to a statement filed in support of the restraining order.
Black’s ex-wife also cited his SWAT training (he was on the sheriff’s team for a probationary period before he was cut), role as a firearms instructor and ownership of guns as reasons for her concern, records show.
In court documents, Black denied the allegations against him. Still, a judge issued the temporary restraining order – which required Black to turn in his guns – Oct. 2. It remains in effect, with the next hearing scheduled for May.
The nature of the allegations shocked Black’s department, as well as other law enforcement officers in the area. But many of those who knew Black or were familiar with his reputation weren’t surprised to see him in trouble again: Black had a long history of disciplinary issues, only some of which drew public attention.
He was perhaps most well-known for his role in the infamous 2005 “flash-bang” incident at the Sacramento County Main Jail – also known internally as the “B nights” fiasco, referring to the shift on which it occurred. After several inmates clogged their toilets in protest, a team of deputies in full riot gear tossed “flash-bang” devices into six cells to extract the inmates. The team was led by Black, then a recently promoted sergeant still on probation. The devices – typically used in riot or hostage situations – burned two inmates, and a third was injured by deputies in the extraction. Collectively, the inmates reaped more than $400,000 from the county in late 2009.
According to the spreadsheet provided to The Bee, the county also paid out the following claims or settlements in response to complaints about Black:
- $29,292 in 2001 to Joseph Hufnagel in an excessive force case when Black was a K-9 officer.
- $8,750 in 2002 to Sunshine Luv-Haynes in an excessive force case when Black was a K-9 officer.
- $5,000 in 2002 to Donald Box in an excessive force case when Black was a K-9 officer.
- $1.5 million in 2004 to Jennifer Graham after Black’s K-9 partner took a chunk out of the 19-year-old’s calf, forever impairing her ability to walk, according to court documents and a 2005 Bee story.
- $19,000 to Chris Pryor and $8,700 to Binti Watts in 2004 in a case involving an unlawful search and arrest.
- $90,000 to Jerry Ganas in 2009 after Black and another deputy fired the unloaded pellet gun at Ganas during a traffic stop.
At the time he filed Ganas’ federal civil rights complaint in 2008, Katz, already was aware of Black’s reputation, stating in the court document that Sacramento County had paid more than $1 million to date “as a result of Black’s malfeasance.”
“It is believed that he is the only Million Dollar Man still with the department,” Katz wrote. “It is also believed that he is the only deputy ever for whom the County has paid compensation in at least seven different cases.”
In a recent interview, Katz said the current $2 million total is appalling. A good officer can get into a difficult situation and make a mistake that costs the county money, Katz said, without it being a reflection of his or her fitness for the job. But a history like Black’s signals an alarming trend that should have been addressed, he said.
“The stars can align in a bad way for someone,” he said. “But in this case, that’s just what this guy’s orbit is.”
William Vizzard, a criminal justice professor at California State University, Sacramento, said it is not unusual for a law enforcement officer to be the subject of a legal claim or lawsuit. The vast majority of them, however, never gain any traction, he said, so he agreed Black’s history is unusual.
“Most people go through their career without anybody collecting a liability suit against them,” he said.
A law enforcement officer’s personnel file – including any complaints or discipline against him or her – is confidential under California law. But some of Black’s issues are laid out in Superior Court and federal court records. These records indicate that Black didn’t go unpunished, at least not in connection with the flash-bang incident. They indicate, however, that he prevailed in overturning some of the discipline meted out.
Then-Sheriff John McGinness demoted Black from the rank of sergeant and suspended him for 240 hours because of his role in the flash-bang incident, according to Superior Court records. But when Black appealed, an arbitrator later ordered him reinstated as a sergeant. He also determined that Black had not intentionally lied to detectives investigating his role in the incident, and reduced the suspension to 20 hours, according to court records.
When Black’s probationary period as a sergeant ended, however, command staff demoted him to deputy because of the flash-bang incident, according to court records. He again appealed, but was not successful.
Less than two months before the flash-bang incident, Black was involved in another Main Jail incident for which he was disciplined. McGinness ordered him suspended for 24 hours; an arbitrator rescinded the suspension and instead ordered that the department issue him a written warning in lieu of discipline, according to court records.
On Friday, McGinness said he could not discuss Black’s case because of confidentiality concerns. But generally speaking, he said arbitrators are expected to review an officer’s entire employment history – including past complaints or punishments – when deciding the appropriate recourse.
He said it is appropriate to question how any officer with a lengthy history might continue to stay employed. His answer is that human beings are making the decisions.
“Good people can disagree on things,” McGinness said.
While he would not discuss Black’s tenure specifically, current Sheriff Jones said that when looking at a deputy’s cumulative case file, one must consider each event individually as well as the “length of service and quality of service” in between any issues. It must be taken into account, he said, whether a deputy appears to have learned from any previous discipline.
“You hope what you did was rehabilitate them,” he said.
Jones said he does not want the community to think that “we’re not handling our own.”
“We are,” he said, adding that since he was sworn in as sheriff at the end of 2010, he has fired 30 deputies, the most recent termination occurring last week.
SAN JUAN - A 33-year veteran of the Puerto Rico Police Department was sentenced to 25 years in prison for crimes related to child pornography, the San Juan office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement reported Wednesday.
William Berrios Cruz was a PRPD lieutenant up until his arrest after being found to have videos of a sexual nature of a 16-year-old girl on his cell phone.
The investigation was launched when several Homeland Security Investigations agents received information on Feb. 24 that Berrios Cruz had raped the girl after having slipped an illegal substance into her drink.
HSI agents mobilized the next day at Berrios Cruz’s residence in the central town of Barranquitas, where they found images on the cell phone of the cop engaging in sexual behavior with the minor.
Berrios Cruz had stood out for his work as an official with the PRPD’s Police Athletic League.
The investigation was undertaken by ICE agents, the HSI and a PRPD task force.
By Malinda Rust
A district court judge has ruled a Comanche County man currently incarcerated for sex offender registry violations committed after his required registration period had expired will remain in jail for the remainder of his term.
Comanche County District Court Judge Mark Smith filed an order Tuesday denying _____'s application for post-conviction relief, filed in October after he received a letter from the Department of Corrections stating he had been removed from the state's sex offender registry.
DOC officials began reviewing every name on the list individually after the Supreme Court ruled in June some convicts in Oklahoma were being kept on the registry past their lapse dates when changes to registry laws were retroactively applied.
In October, when _____ filed his motion asking to withdraw his previous guilty plea, the DOC had reviewed just over 1,300 of the over 7,000 offenders on the state's registry and removed 679 offenders who were no longer subject to registry requirements. _____ was one of those offenders who was removed from the list in early October.
According to _____, his registry period should have ended June 17, 2009, which was 10 years after his release from custody, following a 1997 indecent act with a child case in Kiowa County. The DOC kept him on the sex offender registry, so when he didn't notify police of a move in April 2012, LPD officers arrested him for failing to notify of an address change. _____ was arrested, charged, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years with five suspended.
"I was illegally charged with a felony for not complying with Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act where none applied pursuant to new Oklahoma Supreme Court decision of Starkey v. Oklahoma Department of Corrections," he wrote in his motion.
By JOHN MONK
MANNING - Be sure you’re correct when you call someone a registered sex offender.
LIke, really sure.
A Clarendon County jury awarded $890,000 in damages to a man who his fellow condominium owners – all on the condominium’s governing board – repeatedly and wrongly identified him as a registered sex offender listed on the S.C. Sex Offender Registry.
The jury finding — $550,000 in actual damages and $340,000 in punitive damages — was one of the highest in years in Clarendon County, said county clerk of court Beulah Roberts, who sat through the four-day trial last week.
“There have been some higher awards, but not many,” said Roberts, clerk of court since 1995.
The damages will go to James E. King, who owned two condominium units in the Santee Resort complex, in the Santee community near Lake Marion and the Orangeburg County line.
Board association members had circulated a flyer from the S.C. Sex Offender Registry website about a registered offender named William James King. The flyer, printed from the website, had an old photograph of William James King Jr., along with the information that he had been convicted of committing a lewd act upon a child.
As they circulated the flyer, some board members wrongly told people that the King in the flyer was the same King who owned property in the condominium complex, according to evidence in the trial.
One Santee Resort board member even called King’s bank in Orangeburg — where he had taken out a mortgage — and told the loan officer that King was a sex offender, according to trial evidence.
“It was totally the wrong man — not only is James King not a sex offender, he doesn’t even have a criminal record,” said attorney Shaun Kent of Manning, who represented James King along with Jason Daigle of the Maybank law firm in Charleston.
The board members were dissatisfied with James King’s failure to pay monthly dues on time and to make voluntary contributions to the upkeep of the complex, according to legal papers.
Kent said there were passing similarities between the two Kings — both were white, and on the short side in height, for example.
But the sex offender had a full head of hair and a moustache, and the non-criminal King did not.
Most important, Kent said, everyone shown the flyer who knew King told the condominium board members that wasn’t the plaintiff.
“But they kept showing it anyway,” Kent said.
One other difference — his client is married and has two children, Kent said.
Both plaintiff King and his wife testified at trial, along with some six other plaintiff’s witnesses.
Kent said the trial verdict holds a lesson for everyone.
“There are certain names you just can’t call people, unless you truly check your facts,” Kent said. “It’s beyond reprehensible that someone would call someone else a sex offender without really knowing that they are.”
Freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution does allow someone to call someone else a sex offender, but only if the assertion is correct.
“Truth is the ultimate defense,” Kent said. “If it’s true, it’s true.”
Since the two condominium owners named as defendants in the lawsuit were members of the board, it is the board — and not the individuals — that is responsible for paying off the jury award, Kent said he told the jury during trial.
Two lawyers who represented the condominium board — Jake Kennedy of Florence and William Johnson of Manning — declined comment Thursday. The two represent the association and board members Leah Londeree and James Kinser.
“No comment at this time,” Kennedy said.
Defense lawyers have until Monday to file any post-trial motions, including a notice of appeal.
By JUANITA SOLIS
When I became a mother, I never thought one of my children would end up being labeled a sex offender. Yet, three years ago, it did happen.
It has not only changed his life but mine as well, because I see things so much differently. I see the struggles that my child goes through when it comes to finding a job, the prejudices and stigma he deals with when they find out he is a sex offender. I think to myself, was I the same way?
Up until recently, sex offenders to me were the same as pedophiles. They were the ones that hurt children, that raped woman. Now I know that is not true.
Sex offenders can be someone that was caught urinating in public; they can be a minor that had sex with another minor. They can be someone that was unlucky enough to have had sex with a minor that lied about their age. Their lives are changed forever while the minor goes on living their life with no consequence to their action.
They can even be someone that used a file sharing program, like my son did. They trusted the title of the movie to be what it said to be and not child porn like it turned out to be.
There has to be some way to change the laws to reclassify people like this. Some way to label people like above in a class separate from people that rape or harm another human being. Some way to stop people from assuming that just because they are labeled a sex offender that they are a bad person.
But the question is how?