Judicial Crooks - SCUM OF THE EARTH


St. Petersburg Times, published June 13, 1998


ZEPHYRHILLS -- The chief security officer at Zephyrhills Correctional Institution has lost his job, and dismissal papers seem to portray him as a cheap, foul-mouthed bully.

Col. Daniel Brown, who supervised the guard staff, was fired June 2. In his termination letter, prison Superintendent Ronald Holmes said Brown failed to repay money he borrowed from one officer and refused to pay another officer for a $158 Amway "starter kit."

The letter also says Brown used profanity when addressing or referring to co-workers and had his cars washed and his shoes shined at the Employees' Club without paying.

He had been with the Pasco prison for more than three years. Before that, he supervised inmates in a work-release prison in the Miami area.

A Florida Department of Corrections investigation also found that Brown retaliated against a subordinate who reported Brown for pepper-spraying a handcuffed and shackled inmate.

"The colonel, I feel, did a good job," Holmes said. "But he committed some indiscretions and had to face the consequences."

The investigation determined that in September of last year, Brown collected $10 from the senior staff to supply correctional officers with coffee, doughnuts and juice. One captain did not have a $10 bill, but gave Brown a $20 bill. Brown refused to repay the difference, the letter said.

In January 1997, Brown received an Amway starter kit from another officer but never paid for it. Witnesses said Brown told the officer, "As long as I owe you, you will never be broke." On another occasion, Brown is accused of leaving the prison while on duty to go look at a boat. The letter says Brown took two officers with him, which left the prison without backup staff.

After Brown used unnecessary force on an inmate, Sgt. Michael Jones reported the incident to investigators, the letter said. Brown is charged with retaliating against Jones by writing a false incident report about the officer.

Brown has denied the allegations.

"The charges that have been placed against me are not at all part true at all," Brown said in a meeting with prison and Department of Corrections officials, says a transcript of the meeting (see transcript, accompanying box).

"The things that I did wrong, I admitted to during the investigation. . . . The only thing that I can see that I have truly been, is naive and a little stupid for even allowing myself to get caught up in this type of situation."

Brown, who has an unlisted telephone number, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Charles J. Traina, did not return calls.

Witnesses portrayed Brown as a domineering, almost tyrannical boss given to blue language.

"Sergeant Michael Jones passed a polygraph examination, indicating he is being truthful when he said Colonel Brown told him in reference to Officer Sanders he was going to "bury that snitching son of a b---- so deep in midnights that he would need to pump sunshine to his a-- to get away."

Brown is also accused of using another expletive to refer to some superiors, the report states.

The investigation also found that on June 28, 1996, Brown maced inmate Jerry Blake, who was bound in wrist and leg restraints, for refusing to get up and walk to his cell.

But that incident was not the basis for Brown's dismissal, said Joe Papy, Department of Corrections regional director.

"The colonel was disciplined by the superintendent," Papy said. "It was a matter already dealt with."

The charge was mentioned in the investigation because Brown is accused of retaliating against Jones for reporting it to investigators.

Also, Brown's secretary, Sharon Perkins, was fired for falsifying a memo and lying to investigators, the report states.


PA State Senator Dan Delp won't go to jail for hiring a teen-age prostitute and buying her drinks.

She agreed to play for pay, Delp bought her four or five beers and Alabama Slammers. At one bar Delp flashed his Senate ID card and said she was with him when a doorman refused her admission without ID.

Delp, 33, also spent $50 on appetizers and drinks, submitting a $50 reimbursement claim for "a dinner discussing banking issues". After leaving the bar late, going to Delp's house for sex, the 19 year-old agreed to see him regularly for $225 an hour.

After paying his $4000 fine, he said "I was incredibly stupid for 10 hours of my life", and that he pleaded guilty because, "I've always been a big believer in personal responsibility". He must also provide 400 hours of community service, write a public apology and be home at 9:00 each night for the first year of his two years probation.

"The effects of this sordid case on the integrity of the Senate of Pennsylvania as a whole will be felt for a long time," Sen. Robert Mellow D-Lackawanna said. "The best way to restore that dignity is for Senator Delp to resign his office immediately".

--excerpts extracted from The Morning Call Thursday June 11, 1998 by Peter Durantine of the Associated Press

Test shows guard fathered inmate's baby DNA makes link; woman sues state, claiming she was raped

TACOMA -- A DNA test has shown that a state prison guard fathered a child with an inmate, the inmate's attorney says.

Heather Wells has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the state. She says she was raped by the guard in December 1996, when she was serving time for murder at the Washington Corrections Center for Women near Purdy. The guard has since resigned.

The baby girl, Arieona, was born in September. The DNA test, certified on May 29, is 99.99 percent accurate, according to Labcorp, the North Carolina-based company that conducted it.

Wells' lawyer, Thomas Balerud, said he gave prosecutors results of the DNA test Thursday.

"The prosecutor's office has indicated that it was waiting on the results of the paternity test-" before filing charges, Balerud said. "All the information they need is in their possession.-"

The guard resigned after another inmate accused him of inappropriately touching her, but denied wrongdoing in that episode, saying other employees disliked him and encouraged the inmate to make a false complaint.

But to win a rape conviction prosecutors must prove sex wasn't consensual. Unlike most states, Washington has no law banning sex between inmates and prison employees.

Dondia Lenoir, a former Purdy guard, was acquitted earlier this year of raping a Purdy inmate. The jury deliberated less than four hours.

Prosecutors had an easier time with Curtis Higginbotham, a guard who impregnated Purdy inmate Stephanie Hamilton-McKendry in 1993 and pleaded guilty to rape.

Wells was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stabbing to death a 73-year-old man who refused to lend her $5. She has been imprisoned since 1984 and is due for release in December.

She is now held at a pre-release center near Spokane.

Ah, St. Pete Florida - My Home

Chief Goliath Davis III and Bill LauBach, executive director of the Police Benevolent Association, clashed at times during a news conference Thursday to announce the results of the internal affairs investigation.

Vice squad rattled with demotions, two firings About half of St. Petersburg's narcotics unit is punished for false payrolls, conduct unbecoming officers or inefficiency.

St. Petersburg Police

Vice squad rattled with demotions, two firings By LEANORA MINAI, MIKE BRASSFIELD and KRIS MAYES

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 10, 1998


ST. PETERSBURG -- It started when a police clerk complained about an unwanted kiss.

Toward the end of her internal affairs interview, the clerk, as an afterthought, mentioned that something else was going on in the department's vice and narcotics unit.

"Oh, by the way," she said, "there are people in vice who are cheating on their payroll."

Nine months later, the clerk's casual aside led to one of the most turbulent days in St. Petersburg Police Department history.

Nearly half of the city's undercover drug-fighting unit was either fired, demoted, suspended or reprimanded Thursday over issues involving payroll, conduct unbecoming officers or inefficiency.

Maj. Donald S. Quire, a 24-year veteran and unit commander, and Detective Jeffrey S. Riley were fired after police administrators including Chief Goliath Davis III determined they had falsified time sheets. Internal investigators said they were double-dipping -- being paid by the city while working outside jobs.

Also, a lieutenant and sergeant were demoted and suspended for 60 days. Another lieutenant chose to retire instead of accepting a suspension and demotion. Two other detectives were suspended, and another four officers were handed written reprimands or counseled.

Even as Davis was meeting with a chain-of-command board to decide the cases and mete out the punishment, word of the suspensions and demotions swept through the department. By the end of the day, it had become known among officers as "Black Thursday."

"This is a police department that rebounds very well from controversy," Davis said Thursday during a news conference.

The Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association said it would sue and appeal most of the rulings.

Bill LauBach, the PBA's executive director, said that inaccurate time cards are a pervasive problem in the department, an allegation Davis denied.

"There was no intent to defraud this city," said LauBach, who clashed with Davis during the news conference. "No personal gain or benefit was realized by these individuals."

Six of those disciplined Thursday signed waivers of their appeal rights, but LauBach said those signatures were "coerced" and the union may appeal anyway.

The investigation also looked into whether there had been racial conflicts, favoritism and cliques within the narcotics squad. But most of the officers ultimately were disciplined simply for claiming to have been at work for the city when they were doing something else.

Although the investigation found that some narcotics and vice officers had essentially been untruthful, Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Robert Dillinger said he doubted the finding would have much impact on court cases involving the officers.

Quire, the unit commander since May 1994, was the first to appear Thursday morning before the chain-of-command board, which consists of Chief Davis and other high-ranking administrators.

Quire's payroll records, according to the internal affairs report, showed he sought pay from the city on several occasions when he was not at work. For example, Quire was paid for 16 city hours he did not work on April 3 and April 4 of last year. At the same time he claimed to be working for the city, Quire was also being paid by St. Petersburg Junior College, which showed he taught classes there for eight hours on April 3 and 12 hours on April 4.

"That's virtually impossible," the chief said. "You can't be on the city's clock and the junior college's clock at the same time and receive compensation from both. That was essentially the essence of the falsification."

In his statement to internal affairs, Quire said the previous administration, under former Chief Darrel Stephens, let him mark down police work hours while he was teaching as "comp time" to compensate him for extra hours he worked. Quire was salaried and wasn't paid for overtime.

Stephens, however, told investigators he never allowed Quire to use compensatory time. Quire was suspended in December.

After Quire was terminated Thursday, he was escorted from the building by officers.

Quire's attorney described the decision as "an outrage for Don Quire" and suggested that the investigation failed to take into account his long history of service.

"I don't believe the decision is based on a complete investigation that looks at this man's 24-year career, which is documented by consistently glowing recommendations," said attorney Bob Heyman.

Heyman said Quire, who earned $67,209 a year and once applied for the chief's job, would appeal his dismissal.

Detective Jeffrey Riley, a 12-year veteran, also was fired.

Investigators said Riley altered his time sheet to show he worked days he didn't -- for instance, on Sept. 12, 1997. Investigators said Riley gave conflicting explanations for that discrepancy.

Riley told investigators that when he was teaching, he had gotten permission from his supervisor to use "flex time" -- to work a weekend and mark down the hours on weekdays to save his vacation time.

Riley also wrote on a time card that he had worked in St. Petersburg on March 10 and 11, 1997, when he was actually in Illinois. He told investigators he had "screwed up."

Though vice and narcotics investigators often work odd hours and long days, internal investigators found that those disciplined Thursday didn't keep accurate records of their work.

Detective Leonard Leedy, a 24-year veteran, was asked by investigators why he would not just mark his sheets with the actual hours he worked.

"We just never did it that way since I've been in the unit," he said.

Leedy received a 60-day suspension for, among other alleged policy violations, falsifying time sheets.

Maj. William Proffitt, who filled in for Quire while Quire was on paid administrative leave, said the investigation has been an issue among detectives but "it hasn't stopped us from working."

"It's been a difficult several months," Proffitt said Wednesday in advance of Thursday's actions.

The number of arrests made by vice and narcotics officers don't appear to have suffered during the long investigation. The unit made 1,061 arrests in the first five months compared with 2,712 arrests for all of 1997. In 1996, there were 2,520 arrests.

When asked who would replace the narcotics investigators who were either fired or demoted, Chief Davis said he had some ideas, which included transferring officers into the unit. He declined to discuss specifics.



Suit calls inmates' ex-dentist a phony Orlando Sentinel, Associated Press Published in The Orlando Sentinel, July 4, 1998

OCALA -- A former inmate has accused the Marion County Jail of using a phony dentist to treat him and other prisoners.

In a lawsuit, the inmate alleges Marion County Sheriff Ken Ergle should have known Illya Fitzgerald Hathorn was a fraud who had a prior arrest for practicing dentistry without a license.

``A criminal background check would have shown that he had been convicted of doing this before,'' Gainesville lawyer Horace Moore Sr. said.

He is representing Timothy Stanley Sr., 32, who is suing for more than $15,000. The suit was filed June 26 in Circuit Court here.

Moore said 37 other former inmates are prepared to join the suit if a judge certifies it as a class action.

Stanley is suing because, he said, the sheriff prevented them from being treated by a licensed dentist, not because of the quality of care Hathorn provided while employed directly by the sheriff for two weeks in January 1997.

Ergle said every inmate Hathorn treated was re-examined by a licensed dentist. Carrie Proctor, the sheriff's senior staff attorney, said Hathorn had gone to dental school but did not graduate.

She said the quality of his work, however, never was questioned. ``This guy was a good dentist,'' she said.

The jail's medical log indicates Hathorn pulled one tooth from Stanley's mouth on Jan. 7, 1997. Stanley was in jail on charges of possession and sale of cocaine. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 32 months in a state prison.

Hathorn, 30, began working at the jail on Sept. 27, 1996, as an employee of Correctional Medical Services, which had a contract to provide medical services to the county jail.

Ergle canceled the contract on Jan. 1, 1997, and began hiring his own medical staff, including Hathorn. Medical logs show Hathorn treated 115 inmates while directly employed and more than 1,000 inmates in all.

On Jan. 27, 1997, Hathorn was arrested in Ocala on shoplifting charges, and detectives began looking into his past. They found he had been convicted in Tallahassee in 1996 for practicing without a license, and that Georgia authorities were investigating him for the same thing.

Ocala police then charged Hathorn with unlicensed practice, and he was arrested in Georgia, where he had fled after the shoplifting arrest.

Hathorn pleaded no contest on May 1, 1997, and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

A similar lawsuit was filed in February against another of Hathorn's former employers, Ocala dentist Terry Braun, doing business as Ocala Dental Care.

Two patients accused Braun of violating the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and failing to verify Hathorn's credentials.

That lawsuit, which also names Correctional Medical Services as a defendant, is pending.

[Posted 07/03/98 10:40 PM EST]


July 10, 1998

Fla. Guards Charged in Inmate Death

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) -- Nine corrections officers were indicted Friday on federal charges in the death of an inmate who allegedly was beaten repeatedly before being left chained to a bed to bleed to death.

The prison guards, seven from the Charlotte Correctional Institution in Fort Myers and two from the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution, were fired.

All were charged in a seven-count indictment with violating the civil rights of inmate John Edwards.

Edwards, who was HIV positive, bit a guard at Zephyrhills and was transferred to the Charlotte prison in southwest Florida because of the incident, U.S. Attorney Charles R. Wilson said.

According to the indictment, the corrections officers plotted to injure, threaten and intimidate Edwards, and to retaliate because he bit their colleague.

They allegedly kicked and beat Edwards, slamming him into walls while he was in restraints. After three days of being brutalized at the Charlotte prison, Edwards tried to commit suicide by slashing his arm.

He then was moved to a psychiatric dorm and after another beating, while chained naked to a metal bed. He bled to death over a 12-hour period, a grand jury found.

Edwards was found dead Aug. 22, 1997. An examination of his body showed several cuts and bruises, but that he had died as a result of the blood loss from the self-inflicted wound, grand jurors said in handing down the indictment.

Each of the correctional officers charges faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000 on each count, if convicted.

A tenth guard, John Robbins, pleaded guilty to a single conspiracy count Friday before U.S. Magistrate George Swartz.


Guard is dismissed after sex complaint

Two inmates claim the Zephyrhills Correctional

Institution guard had sex with them.

DNA evidence supported the charge.


St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 1998


ZEPHYRHILLS -- A guard at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution was fired Friday after an investigation led to evidence that he had sex with two male inmates. Sgt. Michael Johnson's dismissal came after one of the prisoners produced a semen sample that matched Johnson's DNA, prison superintendent Ron Holmes said. During a Florida Department of Corrections inquest, the prisoners said that Johnson, a 45-year-old guard with 20 years' service, had sex with them in a dormitory laundry room. The offense allegedly occurred in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, before most of the staff and inmates had stirred from bed. "Because it was so early in the morning, there was an opportunity for some measure of privacy," Holmes said. It was unclear to Holmes if the sex was consensual. But it really didn't matter for the purposes of Johnson's career. Any sex with inmates is banned. "With the officer being in a supervisory position, you don't know if there was any intimidation," Holmes said. Johnson's dismissal letter also mentions a drunken driving offense of Jan. 4. Holmes said Johnson failed to tell his bosses about the charge, violating a rule that guards must report any entanglements with the law. Zephyrhills Correctional Institution, a sprawling concrete complex three miles south of Zephyrhills on U.S. 301, has a capacity of 600 prisoners. The security staff, including guards, totals 179. Holmes said one of the two inmates reported the sex the same day it happened. Somehow, the prisoner saved a portion of the guard's semen and turned it over to the prison medical staff, Holmes said. Confronted with the charges, Johnson refused to confirm or deny them, Holmes said. An inquest convened at the prison ruled that the accusations were valid, based largely on the DNA. Johnson, who is unmarried and lives in the Zephyrhills area, had worked for the Department of Corrections since 1978. The sex accusations haven't led to criminal charges. Johnson could not be reached for comment. He was the third casualty of misconduct at the prison since June. A chief correctional officer, Daniel Brown, was fired after admitting he pepper sprayed an inmate in shackles. Brown's assistant, Sharon Perkins, was also dismissed, accused of lying to investigators. Holmes emphasized that Johnson's troubles shouldn't be allowed to tarnish the whole institution. This was the first time in Holmes' five years at the prison that a guard was dismissed for having sex with prisoners, he said. "It's rare," he said. "You see incidents like this occurring around the nation, but here this is not something that occurs with any regularity."

Prison Term Won't End Ex-Cop's

Disability Pay

$27,000 a year for San Jose man's

gambling addiction

Julie N. Lynem, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, February 25, 1999

1999 San Francisco Chronicle

A former San Jose police officer sentenced yesterday to 14 years in prison for burglaries will continue to receive $27,000 a year in disability benefits for his gambling addiction. Johnny Venzon Jr., 48, had been accused of stealing from people on his own beat while in uniform. Venzon, who blamed his actions on a gambling addiction, often burglarized homes and then investigated the crimes, according to Deputy District Attorney Dale Sanderson. Venzon pleaded guilty two years ago to nine counts of residential burglary and one count of commercial burglary, for crimes committed in 1996 and 1997. In addition to the prison time, Santa Clara County Judge Melinda Stewart fined Venzon approximately $20,000 and ordered him to pay restitution of more than $100,000 to his victims. Last fall, the San Jose Police and Fire Retirement Board awarded Venzon a $27,000 annual disability pension after medical experts said he suffered from uncontrollable gambling. Ed Overton, a city retirement administrator, said yesterday that Venzon will continue to receive those benefits. According to City Attorney Joan Gallo, San Jose permits retirements for psychiatric disabilities, usually involving alcohol or drugs. Bill Brill of the city's Civil Service Commission said that if the board had denied the disability pension, Venzon's wife and six children would not receive medical benefits. As for his sentence, Venzon could have received the maximum penalty of 17 years in state prison. He most likely will be paroled in about six years, Sanderson said, thanks in part to credit for time served in the Santa Clara County Jail. ``I'm pleased with the sentence the judge imposed,'' Sanderson said. ``But do I think it's enough time? Of course not.'' Dan Burland, Venzon's attorney, called the sentence ``harsh'' and said his client had an excellent record. Venzon received 33 letters of commendation throughout his 18-year career on the force, he said. ``There's no question that he has a psychological problem,'' Burland said. ``At least three different doctors have said that he has an addiction to gambling, which is recognized as an illness.'' Sanderson agreed that Venzon burglarized homes to feed his gambling habit, often selling stolen goods for ready cash. However, Venzon used his badge to violate the people he took an oath to serve and protect, he said. ``Supervisors wrote glowing reports of his job performance,'' Sanderson said. ``It was all a part of the Johnny Venzon mystique, the Johnny Venzon web.'' Venzon will remain in the jail until he is sent to a prison facility, and will probably spend time in San Quentin, Sanderson said. Meanwhile, a current San Jose police officer is also behind bars at the Santa Clara County Jail after his arrest on burglary and domestic violence charges. Sergeant Ron Ledesma, a 25-year veteran, was taken into custody about 3 a.m. Monday after police responded to a burglary call at a South San Jose apartment complex. Ledesma apparently had broken into his girlfriend's residence, police said. The Santa Clara County district attorney's office charged Ledesma with two counts of battery and one count of false imprisonment yesterday in connection with domestic violence incidents that took place over the past several years.