“Man is unjust but god is just, and finally justice triumphs.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Your own actions brought this upon you. The punishment is bitter, piercing to the heart.” –Jeremiah 4:19 NLT
The vast majority of Americans are decent, law-abiding, hardworking people who mind their own business, live their own lives, pay their taxes (albeit grudgingly, perhaps) and trust those who have been given the responsibility of protecting them and their loved ones, hoping – if not always believe – that those individuals are applying wisdom, education, research, experience, fairness, compassion and balance4 to the process of passing, enforcing and adjudicating the laws deemed necessary to fulfill that responsibility.
Today we are going to take a whirlwind tour of the great country of ours and see how all of that wisdom, education, research, experience, fairness, compassion and balance comes together in real-life scenarios.
While it is entirely possible that there is justification and ration although behind each of the sentences given in the situations that I am going to highlight for you here, in some cases it will be difficult to find any.
In fact, in a few instances, I am sure that you will agree that the crime truly was the punishment given.
The first stop on our tour is in Michigan where we find John Skelton, who was recently sentenced to a term of 10-15 years in prison after pleading “No Contest” to a charge of ‘Unlawful imprisonment.’ in exchange for that plea, kidnapping charges (punishable by up to life in prison) were dismissed.
Skelton was involved in a contentious divorce and – to punish his ex-wife – rather than returning his 3 sons (ages 5, 7, and 9) after Thanksgiving last November, he “gave” them to an “underground sanctuary group.”
He doesn’t know where the group – or his sons – are, nor can they be found.
He had said he wanted to deprive their mother of memories of her sons.
From Michigan, we wander down to Oklahoma where Lindsay Dawn Fiddler, 27, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Ms Fiddler had pleaded guilty to 2nd degree manslaughter charges and child neglect after her 10 day old daughter was found, dead, in a washing machine.
Fiddler maintained throughout that she did not know how little Maggie got into the washing machine.
Next we are going to visit a federal courtroom in Minnesota, where we find Omer Abdi Mohammed of St. Anthony. He recently pleaded guilty to one count of “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, admitting he helped provide people as part of a conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim others in a foreign country.”
At this writing, Omer was awaiting sentencing, but the maximum he can receive for his charges is 15 years in prison.
Let’s slide way over to the east coast and visit Fairfax, Virginia where we encounter Carmela Dela Rosa. Ms Dela Rosa was angry at her Son-in-law who had gotten her daughter pregnant out of wedlock so she took it out on her 2 year old granddaughter, Angelyn Ogdoc.
Prosecutors said she premeditatedly threw the little girl “like a piece of trash” off of a 45 foot high pedestrian bridge at a shopping mall.
Little Angelyn died, of course, and for the premeditated, 1st degree murder of a 2 year old child, dela Rosa received 35 years in prison.
But enough of these petty crimes. Let’s mosey on down to Texas, where we find Carl Wade Curry. Curry, the most dangerous, vile and despicable members of our first group was recently sentenced to 99 years in prison. For stealing cattle from a Mississippi rancher.
– 3 boys, given away by their father and not seen for almost a year – 10-15 years
– 10 day old baby found dead in a washing machine – 15 years
– Conspiracy to “murder, kidnap, and maim” – maximum 15 years
– Throwing your 2 year old grand daughter to her death from a 45 foot high pedestrian bridge in a mall – 35 years
– Cattle rustling – 99 years
Well – It’s a big country, so let’s move on shall we?
From Texas. We’re going to head up to Ohio. But first, let’s stop off in Ft Carson Colorado, to see how PFC David Lawrence fared in military court not too long ago. Private Lawrence pleaded guilty to “premeditated murder for killing a Taliban prisoner who was sleeping in his jail cell.
He got 12 ½ years in prison.
I guess it’s no big deal, though, the man Private Lawrence killed in cold blood, as he slept, unarmed and locked up, was just a prisoner. And a terrorist to boot.
Leaving Ft. Carson, we head to Lucas County, Ohio, where Sheriff James Telb and three other sheriff’s employees were indicted on criminal charges related to the death of a prisoner.
Carlton Benton, 25, died on June 1, 2004.
His death was believed to be the result of a beating and ‘Sleeper Hold’ administered by guards in his cell where he was left, unconscious, without medical attention. The sheriff and an internal affairs investigator were charged by the FBI with lying about what happened and covering it up. They were acquitted in December of 2010.
Two guards, Jones Gray and Jay Schmeltz, faced charges stemming from the incident. They were convicted of civil rights charges and falsifying reports and were sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in federal prison. Gray received a 3 year sentence.
Carlton Benton received a death sentence, but that too, was no big deal I guess. He was, after all, just a prisoner locked behind bars.
While certainly not representative of the overwhelming majority of people in positions of power and authority, Gray and Schmelts are the first examples I am going to use of those who abuse their position, power, or authority and violate the public trust.
In previous posts, I highlighted abuses by corrections officials and other officials in privately run institutions in this country. The next few stops on our tour will show that bad behavior is certainly not the exclusive domain of the private prison industry. Officers other officials and employers of state and federal institutions sometimes succumbing to greed or are guilty of abusive treatment towards those they are charged with guarding.
Some certainly do raise an eyebrow and cause one to think that, in some cases at least, the bigger crime is, indeed, the punishment.
We continue on to Fairton, New Jersey to the Federal Correctional Institution. (FCI)
Brian Walters, the former chief Pharmacist for the FCI pleaded guilty in August of 2010 to charges of theft of government property. Said property was a narcotic pain reliever, which he stole from July 2008 to July 2009, along with needles and other supplies.
Walters was sentence in December of 2010 to 3 years probation, $7014.44 in restitution, and $1000 fine.
Down the Eastern seaboard a little, in Baltimore, Maryland, Alicia Simmons, 34, a former guard at a prison facility there, was sentenced to a total of 37 months in federal prison, followed by 36 months of supervised release.
Simmons has ties to a group called “The Black Guerrilla Family” and had been accused of smuggling drugs, cell phones, and other contraband in to the prison where she worked as well as allowing gang members to fight and attempting to identify police informers.
Back up the coast, in Providence, Rhode Island, independent Governor Chaffe signed into law a bill that would make possession of a cell phone by an inmate punishable by up to five more years in prison.
Hmm…… smuggling drugs, cell phones, other contraband into prison, 37 months. Possession of the cell phone that was smuggled into prison, 5 years.
As Ace Ventura would say, “Alrighty then!”, let’s head on over to the Trumbull Correctional Institution, located in Ohio, where we find Christopher Ellis.
Ellis pleaded guilty on April 26, 2011 to charges of “possession of cocain and illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto grounds of a correctional facility.”
His sentence? One year in prison.
In the great state of Texas, Daniel Melgoza, a 54 year old former Jail Guard from San Antonio was sentenced in April of 2011 for an incident that occurred in December of 2004.
Melgoza was charged with depriving a prisoner of his constitutional rights and obstruction of justice for kicking a prisoner in the head with pointed cowboy boots (are there any other kind?) and then writing false reports to cover it up.
Melgoza received 27 months in prison.
As long as we’re in Texas, let’s walk our pointed cowboy boots over to Beaumont where Joseph Christopher Roberts was stopped in April of 2007 for making an illegal u-turn. At that time, it was discovered that Mr. Roberts had outstanding traffic warrants and he was taken into custody.
In an apparently unprovoked attack that was captured on videotape, while he was being processed in the Jefferson County Jail, Jail Officer Rodney George Cloe II punched him in the face several times and slammed his head in the booking counter.
The incident was witnessed by several other jail employees, who did nothing, and was placed in a holding cell without medical attention being given to the injuries which ultimately required stitches.
Roberts was assaulted again later as he was being photographed and fingerprinted this time by Johnny Lynn Nickery, Jr. this incident was also videotaped and witnessed by other jail employees, who – once again – did nothing. In fact, they were all videotaped high – fiveing one another in apparent celebration.
Both Nickery and Cole were convicted of misdemeanor official oppression in 2008. Nickery paid a $4,000 fine. Cole received the same fine plus one year probation.
Roberts filed a lawsuit naming the county and the 2 jail employees. A judge dropped the country from the suit and even though a jury deliberated only 6 hours before returning an award of $16 million dollars, it is doubtful Roberts will collect much from the 2 guards.
Of course, one has to question the amount of the award just as much as one must question the leniency of the punishment.
Meanwhile, over in Georgia’s Fulton County Jail (FCJ), incidents of prisoner abuse at the facility resulted in sentences for 3 guards late in 2010 on federal charges, resulting from those incidents.
In one of those incidents, Richard Glasco was being “loud and unruly” in his cell. FCJ Guard Mitnee Markette Jones, Derontay Langford and Curtis Jerome Brown, Jr. Entered Glasco’s Cell to “subdue” him.
They were Successful. An hour after the trio left Glasco’s cell, he was discovered “unresponsive and not breathing” on the floor of his cell. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The group of guards filed false reports in regards to the incident. All omitting one important fact – that they had entered the cell and had “physical altercation” with Glasco.
Langford cooperated with the prosecutors in the case and received 4 months house arrest as part of his 3 years of probation. Brown was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for various charges including lying to a federal grand jury and lying to a FBI agent. Jones was sentenced to 15 months.
Glasco remains dead.
I cannot stress enough that the vast majority of corrections officers and employees are not viscous, sadistic, bullies. It is also true that their job is sometimes dangerous and there are numerous instances of assault against guards and employees by inmates. I do not intend to imply that this a a one way street.
That said, however, we should all take issue with some of the sentences metered out when a few individuals cross the line and become no better – and in some cases worse – than those they are guarding.
We should never forget that the incarceration itself – the loss of liberty, loved ones, and the rights and privileges enjoyed by free individuals – is the punishment imposed by the court and mandated by law.
Not the physical abuse a few misguided individuals may think it is their responsibility to hand out.
Assault is Assault – and murder is murder – no matter who the perpetrator is or the location in which it occurs.
That said, let’s head to Illinois where 25 year old Emmanuel Chapple was awaiting trial on robbery and sexual assault charges. While in the jail, Chapple committed “aggravated battery” against Jail Guard Craig Wakefield. And since this was Chapple’s third “class 2 felony or more offense” he was therefore sentenced as a “Class X” felon.
Chapple had been charged with aggravated battery for spitting on Officer Wakefield.
For another case of inmate-on-guard assault, let’s jet over to California where, on January 3, 2011, the California court of Appeal for the 5th District upheld a 25 year–to–life sentence given to an inmate convicted of assaulting an officer while confined in a security housing unit – the SHU, the Hole. . . the place reserved for people who still don’t get it while incarcerated- at the California State Prison in Corcoran.
Mane Dixon, 48, has a criminal history dating back to 1980. the severity of his sentence was due to his being convicted under California’s “Three strikes you’re out” law.
Dixon is, as you will see, definitely one of the people prisons are intended for. His actions in the past would make him appear to be nothing more than a brutally vicious, violent animal who probably never should see the outside of a prison again, but it is how this “life sentence is arrived at that will raise an eyebrow or two.
In 1980, Dixon was convicted of “numerous felonies including rape, sodomy, robbery, and burglary.” For all of that, Dixon received 100 years in prison.
Oh! Excuse me….. I read that wrong. For all of that Dixon received 10 years in prison! (This portion of his life will appear again in a later article I have planned.)
In 1987, While serving the sentence for these offenses, he was convicted of assault (in prison, of an inmate) and received a 6 year sentence added on to what he was serving.
The year 2000 finds Dixon on parole. It also finds him on his way back to prison for violating his parole when he is convicted of “attempted forcible sodomy of a minor”, and resisting an officer. In 2005, while serving his sentence, he was convicted of battery by a prisoner on a non-confined person (a guard) and sentenced to 8 more years.
Such a pleasant individual Mr. Dixon is.
On October 15, 2006 while in the Security Housing Unit, Dixon threw his food tray at Prison Guard Richard Trait as the officer was attempting to retrieve the tray through the “food port” of Dixon’s cell. The tray struck Officer Trait “on his hands and forearms” and he bumped into the food cart as he jumped back from the cell door. Dixon also spat at Officer Trait and “swung a towel” into the food port.
– Rape, robbery, sodomy, burglary – 10 years
– Startling a guard – 25 to life
– Cattle rustling – 99 years
– Richard Glasco and Carlton Benton – they are still dead.
And in New York, at the Erie County Correctional Facility, there was a fight over a bag of potato chips on April 21, 2011. Erie County Under-Sheriff mark Wipperman called the incident “an embarrassment”. The two people involved in the fight were guards at the facility. An inmate tried to break it up and required medical attention.
I just couldn’t resist sharing that with you.
To close out this article, I would like to spend a few moments on Deer Hunting.
In a post on June 14, 2011, I mentioned a Florida man, Jeffrey Dickman, who was arrested in Boise, Idaho and sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for guiding a deer hunt without a license and for illegally shipping deer meat across state lines.
From Eugene, Oregon, comes the story of a father and son who were convicted of leading the state’s largest deer poaching ring and were sentenced to jail. Due to overcrowding Rory Donoho and his 37 year old son Shane will spend 90 days under house arrest , monitored by ankle bracelets.
It seems that lane county can’t afford to staff it’s entire jail. The space they do have is reserved for people convicted of violent crimes.
How silly, that actually makes sense.
I have, however, saved the best for last, and I am going to dub this “The Case of the Gun Totin’ Granny.” While most of the stories, for this article were pulled from “Prison Local News”, “USA Today”, “the Des Moines Registrar” and the “Arkansas Democrat Gazette”, the story of this dangers menace to society is base on a first-hand account from Alan, who shared a little bit of himself with you all not too long ago.
After Alan’s arraignment in Federal court he was taken to be processed by the U.S. Marshall’s. This involved fingerprinting, photographing and the like and Alan, in a suit and tie, stood in stark contrast to a couple of other “guests” of the marshal’s who were dressed out in the bright orange jumpsuits of the Polaski County Jail.
Also in the room was a woman in her 60’s looking very out of sorts, and of course she received curious glances from the rest of the people in the room.
When “Granny” was taken and placed before the camera, the U.S. Marshall taking her picture asked politely, “Ma’am, may I ask what you’re here for?”
It seems that this woman was from the woods of Northern Arkansas and was an avid hunter, as are many women in this southern state. One day, while hunting, she spied a buck and shot him.
Her shot alerted a game warden who happened to be in the area, and when she returned with her “boys” to retrieve the carcass, found the warden writing her a ticket. “What as all this about?” she wondered. She had a legal license, she had placed her deer tag on the carcass before she went to get the boys. What could possibly be wrong?
According to the warden, she had shot the deer on federal land which abutted her land. She had hunted these woods for decades – no way was this federal land.
Well, according to the surveyor hired to ascertain who’s land it was, it did, indeed, belong to the federal government and now a federal prosecutor was arresting our Gun Totin’ Granny for poaching on federal property.
According to Alan, even the U.S. Marshall’s charged with fingerprinting her and taking her picture were shocked that this “Gun Totin’ Granny” was being prosecuted over a deer shot and killed 15 feet over her property line.
God Bless America.
And, until next time – God Bless You All.