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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: Spokane County Jail

Jail changes postcard-only mail policy

Restrictions on inmate mail have loosened at the Spokane County Jail in response to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a prisoner rights publishing group.

While mail sent to inmates from friends and family remains limited to postcards, with jail staff citing security precautions as a primary reason, the restriction no longer applies to outgoing mail.

Also, the jail will make exceptions to the postcard-only rule for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The changes were triggered by a lawsuit filed by lawyers for Prison Legal News, part of the nonprofit Human Rights Defense Center. The organization’s publications were being blocked from delivery to inmates because they weren’t postcards.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage: Aug. 14: Tight rein on jail mail

Wanted: Man accused of helping escapee

A Spokane man who police say allowed to jail escapee at his home is wanted by Crime Stoppers.

Arthur Garcia, 51, (right) is charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle for a 1990 Jeep Cherokee discovered on his property on Nov. 29.

Jason W. Breedlove, 38, (below) told police of the stolen Jeep while an inmate at the Spokane County Jail, according to court documents.

Two days later, he was allowed to clean up snow with a work crew despite a recent recommendatipn that he placed in a more secure facility because of a felony warrant in Kootenai County.

Breedlove walked away from the clean up crew on Dec. 1. 

Anonymous tips led police to Garcia's home at 918 E. 10th Ave., where they say Garcia had earlier agreed to call 911 if Breedlove showed up.

Breedlove was in the backyard when officers arrived on Dec. 9. He was sentenced to three months in jail last month for the escape and is in custody in Kootenai County on 21 charges, including four counts of grand theft, four cunts of burglary and five counts of pharmacy violation/drug delivery.

Garcia, who's criminal history includes a single drug possession conviction, was arrested for misdemeanor rendering criminal assistance.

Garcia was charged with possession of a stolen motor vehicle last month. A $10,000 warrant was issued Feb. 16 after he failed to show up for an arraignment.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online

Few vacancies at Spokane County Jail

An increase in the number of inmates prompted the Spokane County Jail to begin limiting new bookings on Tuesday.

As of noon Tuesday, 665 people were housed at the jail. Booking restrictions are put in place once the population climbs above 650.

Bookings will be generally limited to major crimes, probation and U.S. Marshal holds or misdemeanor offenses with mandatory arrests like domestic violence incidents.

Drunken driving arrests also will be booked, along with warrants preventing release on own recognizance.

“No other misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor charges will be booked without a supervisor from the arresting agency contacting the Jail Shift Sergeant to request an exception,” according to a news release by Sgt. Dave Reagan.

New details released on prison attack

A man who killed his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail in 2004 attacked his cellmate at Airway Heights Corrections Center after the man refused to bow before him and worship him as God, according to newly filed court documents.

Convicted killer and assault suspect Michael L. West, 34, (right) appeared in Superior Court via video feed from the jail Wednesday as several sheriff's deputies stood guard. He was handcuffed for hearing, unlike other inmates.

West is charged with first- and second-degree assault for an alleged attack on Airway Heights cellmates Chad E. Bolstad (bottom left) and Gary L. Welch (bottom right) in which he gouged out Bolstad's left eye, according to police.

West had been at the medium-security prison about two weeks before the Oct. 10 attack.

According to a probable cause affidavit, West screamed and chanted that he was Lucifer and all shall praise him after he was arrested.

When a detective introduced himself, West “began to tell him he was going to murder him and his family as well as 144,000 others who do not follow his word.” 

Police said West was handcuffed without incident after they discovered what the chief described as a “very intense crime scene.”

At one point, West said “I just killed my chimo celly and pulled his f–ing eyes out,” according to the affidavit.

Later, video records West laughing while discussing the attack.

“I put my thumbs in his brain man popped his eyes out what he deserves he got,” West said, according to the affidavit. 

Bolstad, who's to be released in 2015 for a 2007 beer robbery that involved stabbing, suffered a broken cheek bone and lost vision in the attack.

Welch, who's due out in August for forgery, theft and drug convictions and was only slightly injured, told police, West “was acting all crazy and making statements that he was God and the Son of Christ” prior to the attack, according to an affidavit.

“West was pacing around and also saying he was the Devil and both he and Bolstad had to worship him because the end times were coming,” Welch reportedly told police. West chanted “Give me the apple” as he attacked Bolstad, Welch said.

West's bond was set at $150,000 during his first appearance Wednesday. Kari Reardon is his public defender; Larry Steinmtez is prosecuting the case. His arraignment is set for Feb. 1.

Man who killed cellmate returns to jail

One of the state's most notorious prisoners has returned to the Spokane County Jail.

Michael L. West arrived in Spokane from the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla on Tuesday to face strangulation charges for an alleged attack on his cellmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center. 

West, 34, is to appear in Superior Court via video feed from the jail this afternoon. He's being housed alone in maximum security, said jail Lt. Aaron Anderton.

“We haven't had any problems with him yet, but we just want to make that we don't have any more,” Anderton said. “We know that we'll be fine as long as we followed these protocols.”

Anderton said West will be in handcuffs and likely leg shackles for court while accompanied by several guards. He'll be handcuffed when he's out of his cell for showers or visits and is not allowed to have contact with other inmates.

Anderton said the security procedures outlined for West are “almost identical” to security for accused killer Cole Strandberg.

West, convicted of brutally killing his cellmate at the Spokane County Jail in 2004, had been in minimum security at Airway Heights for just two weeks before prison staff say he gouged out a cellmate Chad E. Bolstad's left eye and severely injured his right way. Another cellmate, Gary L. Welch, suffered minor injuries.

Bolstad, 25, is scheduled to be released in 2015 for assault and robbery convictions stemming from a 2007 beer robbery that involved a stabbing. Welch is serving time for forgery, theft and drug convictions in Douglas and Chelan counties and is to be released in August. West was not scheduled to be released until 2048.

Past coverage:

Oct. 13: Killer suspected of 2nd attack on cellmate

Sept. 19, 2007: County to pay $180,000 in inmate's murder

July 27, 2005: Man gets 46 years for rape, jail killing

Oct. 15, 2004: Homicide witness say he tried to warn jailers

Oct. 14, 2004: Man strangled in jail feared for his life

Man, 20, accused of breaking boy’s arm

A 20-year-old Spokane man is in jail on charges that he broke a young boy’s left arm.

Andrew J. Long told Spokane police that the boy, who is less than a year old, fell off a couch at 4925 E. Commerce Ave. on Saturday, but doctors said the injury was too severe.

Long was caring for the boy while his parents were out for the evening. He said he fell asleep with the boy on the coach and awoke to him crying. The boy underwent surgery to repair his arm.

Long remains in jail on $75,000 bond after appearing in court on a second-degree assault charge.

Renter arrested after escapee caught

A jail inmate who escaped from work crew was arrested Thursday at a home in the South Perry Neighborhood, leading to the renter’s arrest on a criminal assistance charge. 

Jason W. Breedlove, 37, was allowed out of Geiger Corrections Center with a work crew despite a recent recommendation from booking officials that he be placed in a more secure facility, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. He walked away from snow clean up on Dec. 1.

Breedlove is charged with several property crimes in Kootenai County, including a car prowling at Capone’s Pub and Grill last summer, according to court records.

Read my full story here.

Deputy breaks hand in fight w/ inmate

A Spokane County Jail deputy recently fractured his hand during a scuffle with an inmate.

Deputy John Madsen said property crime suspect Casey A. Beck, 21, hit him “for no apparent reason,” according to court documents.

Madsen then hit Beck in the head and fractured his own right hand, documents allege.

Beck appeared in Spokane County Superior Court today on one count of custodial assault. He was in jail on burglary charges when Madsen reported the attack Nov. 24.

Madsen was treated at Provence Sacred Heart Medical Center for a fracture near his pinky and ring fingers. Beck declined to talk about the fight with investigators, documents say.

Elevator malfunction injures jail deputy

A corrections deputy received minor injuries when an elevator at the Spokane County Jail malfunctioned.

Janice A. Bauer was treated and released at Spokane hospital after the elevator suddenly dropped, then abruptly stopped, throwing her to the floor on Sunday.

The elevator operator saw Bauer on her knees and asked if she was OK, but didn’t respond for several seconds. The elevator was stuck between the jail annex and the second floor. Deputies pried open the doors and pulled Bauer to the second-floor annex.

“Jail staff report that malfunctions with the elevators have become an ongoing problem in the aging facility, and other deputies have reported incidents of the elevators dropping and stopping suddenly,” according to a news release.

One jailer recently was trapped with inmates in the elevator for several minutes, officials said.

Lawsuit claims jail inmate was tortured

A Spokane County Jail inmate claims in a federal lawsuit that he was beaten without warning by a cell extraction team and later tortured with blows to his genitals.

One problem: As Nicolas Garcia’s recent lawsuit notes, the Sept. 21, 2009, incident was filmed by a Discovery Channel television crew.

The video, which aired in a February episode of the “Behind Bars” show, belies much of what Garcia alleges.

“It would be almost laughable if it weren’t such serious stuff that he’s saying,” said jail Lt. Aaron Anderton.

Read the rest of John Craig’s story here.

Steeles allowed weekly jail meetings

The wife of a North Idaho lawyer accused of hiring someone to kill her will be allowed to meet with her husband every week. 

Cyndi and Edgar Steele can meet once a week at the Spokane County Jail or over the phone, according to a ruling issued Monday by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill. 

Edgar Steele’s lawyer, Roger Peven, must be present, and the visits must be recorded. Peven is required to end the meeting if the Steeles try to discuss the murder-for-hire case, and the couple are prohibited from exchanging notes or documents.

Magistrate Candy Dale will review the jail recordings on a regular basis. Cyndi Steele had asked for the no-contact order to be lifted, but Winmill said she hasn’t provided evidence that prosecutor’s concerns about witness tampering and victim protection have been addressed.

It isn’t the first time the two have met since Edgar Steele’s June 11 arrest - they had an hour meeting supervised by Peven during the summer. Also this week, Winmill delayed Steele’s trial until early next year.

Peven had asked for a six-month continuance of the November trial date, but prosecutors said the case isn’t complex and could go to trial soon.

Winmill imposed a four-month delay, with jury selection now set to begin March 7. 

Past coverage:

June 20: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

June 22: Steele’s phone calls to wife, son released

Sept. 12: Cyndi Steele alleges conspiracy

Oct. 8: Pipe bomb planter pleads guilty

Arbitrator calls deputy‚Äôs force excessive

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A Spokane County Jail officer was properly fired last year for discourteous behavior and excessive force against an inmate, according to an arbitrator’s ruling. 

Any force used by Deputy Wayne S. Green, 42, (pictured) would have been excessive because there was no reason for it, arbitrator Luella Nelson ruled Thursday.

Green had requested the arbitration after a grievance filed by his union was denied, according to previous news accounts.

Nelson said a grainy, soundless surveillance video and the testimony of other officers indicated that Green turned on bar-fight suspect Daniel W. Clinger after an angry confrontation with Deputy Shawn Smith.

Read John Craig’s full story here

Past coverage:

June 5: Fired deputy faces charge

Convicted killer found dead in Spokane jail

A man sentenced to life in prison last week for murdering one of his accusers in a 2007 assault case was found dead in the Spokane County Jail early Monday.

Christopher H. Devlin, 57, didn’t get out of bed when served breakfast about 6:30 a.m., but a jailer thought he saw his leg move, assumed he was refusing to eat, and removed the meal, said sheriff’s Lt. Aaron Anderton.

Another employee found Devlin dead about 8:30 a.m., Anderton said.

Devlin was found face down in his bed. There were no obvious signs of violence.

Anderton said Devlin’s death appears to have been self-inflicted or from natural causes but said investigators are awaiting an autopsy. An estimated time of death will help investigators determine if procedures were followed when Devlin didn’t retrieve his breakfast at 6:30 a.m., Anderton said.

The situation is similar to the Nov. 11 death of Fredrick James Juhnke, who had died from a burst artery but lay in his cell for eight hours before jail deputies found him. Two deputies were disciplined in that case: one was fired and one resigned, including a deputy who falsified jail logs to try to hide the fact that they didn’t make half-hourly checks on inmates as required.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 16: Killer gets life in prison after contradictory verdict

Aug. 18: Jury convicts Devlin in Stevens County slaying

Aug. 11: Hoskins doesn’t testify; defense rests

July 26: Trial opens in murder of crime witness

Feb. 3: Prosecutor’s mix up takes death penalty off the table

Oct. 31, 2009: County balks at case transfer

May 18, 2008: Homicide victim was Chattaroy man

Edgar, Cyndi Steele allowed to meet at jail

The alleged victim in a North Idaho murder-for-hire plot will be allowed to visit the man suspected of hiring someone to kill her.

Cyndi Steele is allowed to meet with Edgar J. Steele once at the Spokane County Jail to discuss “their common property and interests, as well as financial issues related to their chidlren,” according to an order filed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene on Wednesday.

“If the defendant or Mrs. Steele attempt to discuss the case or anything related to it, Mr. Peven shall immediately terminate the visit,” the order from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill reads.

The couple’s meeting will be monitored by Public Defender Roger Peven, and a recording of the meeting will be given to Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan. Whelan did not object to the request.

The Steeles were ordered not to contact each other after Edgar Steele, 65, was arrested at their Sandpoint-area home near Shepherd Lake in June, accused of plotting to kill Cyndi Stelee and her mother.

Cyndi Steele is supporting her husband and attended his arraignment July 28 on a murder-for-hire charge and other charges, including a victim tampering charge related to phone calls Steele made to his wife from the Kootenai County Jail.

Past coverage:

July 21: Steele indicted on 3 new charges

June 21: No bail for suspect in pipe bomb murder plot

June 20: Arrest puts Steele back in public eye

June 17: Pipe bomb suspect in federal custody

June 16: Steele: ‘This is a very emotional situation’

June 16: Bomb found on SUV registered to suspect

Jail mail soon restricted to only postcards

Mail to and from Spokane County Jail inmates will be restricted to postcards beginning Sept. 1.

The change will reduce the amount of time spent inspecting mail, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s office.

“Potentially hazardous substances can be secreted into envelopes which corrections officers have to open,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

Legal correspondence in envelopes still will be accepted, and inmates still are allowed to receive approved magazines, book and newspapers.

Incoming and outgoing mail will be restricted to 5.5” x 8.5” postcards.

Senders must include their full names and address, as well as the inmate’s first name, middle initial, last name and inmate identification number.

Postcards that don’t fit the requirements beginning Sept. 1 will be returned to sender. Mail without a return address will be returned to the post office.

Records detail discipline after inmate’s death

Penalties against four Spokane County Jail deputies who allowed an inmate’s death to go undetected for eight hours range from dismissal to a reprimand.

Workplace charges in the Nov. 11 death of Fredrick James Juhnke were filed in February and March. Video surveillance and interviews revealed that Kenneth Downey, Lloyd Nolan, David Hatton and Jeff Way failed to make required half-hourly checks on inmates’ welfare, but there was no allegation that they caused or could have prevented Juhnke’s death.

An autopsy showed Juhnke, 58, died of a ruptured aortal aneurism – a burst artery.

Documents obtained by The Spokesman-Review under the state Public Records Act indicate Nolan previously had been reprimanded for verbal abuse and harassment.

Read the rest of John Craig’s story here.

June 9: Jailer who failed to discover inmate death fights firing

Pot suspect with ailing brother granted bond

A Canadian truck driver arrested with 300 pounds of marijuana bound for an Avista plant in Kettle Falls will be allowed to leave jail before trial, a U.S. magistrate ruled Friday. 

Matthew G. Tutt, 31, has an older brother who has been diagnosed with cancer and given 18 months to live, said his public defender, Amy Rubin.

Tutt’s mother and father traveled to Spokane from Vancouver Island, B.C, from the hearing, which U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said weighed heavily on her decision to release hm from custody.

Tutt was driving a load of wood chips for Middleton Trucking in Maple Ridge, B.C., when border agents found marijuana in five wooden crates hidden inside the load at the Kettle Falls plant.

He pleaded not guilty Friday to a grand jury indictment charging him with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and importation of marijuana. Both charges carry five to 40 years in prison.

An assistant U.S Attorney requested bond be set to equal the value of the fine B.C marijuana Tutt is alleged to have imported into the country - she estimated $400,000 - but Imbrogno granted a bond of $50,000 - $25,000 cash and $25,000 through a U.S. bond company.

Tutt’s parents will be required to pay a $100,000 appearance bond if he doesn’t show up for court.

Tutt will live in North Vancouver and report monthly to a federal office in Blaine, Wash. He’s allowed only to Blaine and to Alberta to visit his ailing brother.

Convicts deny extortion plot against jailer

Two federal convicts accused of trying to extort a Spokane County jailer told police they’d heard of the plan and were checking to see if the jailer was OK when they were arrested in a sting Monday. 

But investigators didn’t believe Stephanie A. Strong, 28, (left) or Douglas R. Mobley, 30, (top right) and the two appeared in Superior Court Tuesday on a second-degree extortion charge.

Jail deputy Velven “Jack” York, 47, (bottom right) remains on paid leave as the sheriff’s office investigates his relationship with Strong, who he said he met while she was an inmate a couple years ago.

When Strong was released from federal prison a couple months ago after serving time for fraud and mail theft, York began giving her rides from drug rehab to a halfway house where she and Mobley lived with other federal convicts, according to court documents. 

The sheriff’s office is investigating the extent of their relationship, said Sgt. Dave Reagan. Office policy prohibits employees from contacting criminal suspects while off-duty.

York received a phone call Sunday demanding $5,000 to keep his relationship with Strong a secret. He told detectives on Monday and they arranged an undercover rouse where York dropped an envelope of paper at downtown hamburger stand.

“York was concerned about getting in trouble at work, and for this incident going public,” according to court documents filed Tuesday in Superior Court.

Strong and Mobley were arrested when police say they went to retrieve the envelope.

 In court Tuesday, Strong’s aunt, Cathy Kersey, urged an investigation into York’s role in the situation.

Kersey said after court that Strong was released from prison a couple months ago and was doing “so well.”

“I can just hardly believe this,” Kersey said.

She said Strong was doing so well she’d been told she could leave the halfway house early. She was due out in August, Kersey said.

Strong told police she and Mobley are dating. The two work at Wal-Mart in Shadle Park. Strong’s bond was set Tuesday at $5,000. Mobley’s is at $10,000. They’re to be arraigned on July 13.

Past coverage:

June 28: Jailer on leave after extortion plot emerges

Jailer on leave after extortion plot emerges

Two people are in custody and a Spokane County Jail deputy is on paid administrative leave as authorities investigate his connections to an extortion plan allegedly hatched by a former inmate.

The deputy, Velven York, alerted authorities to the extortion attempt Sunday after he was contacted by a caller threatening to disclose his improper off-duty contacts with a former female inmate, identified as Stephanie A. Strong, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The male caller told York he needed to pay $5,000 “if he did not want his activities with Strong made public,” Sgt. Dave Reagan said in a news release.

Sheriff’s policy prohibits employees from contacting criminal suspects when off duty. York had been giving Strong rides from a drug treatment program to a halfway house where she was living, Reagan said, adding that an internal investigation will examine the extent of the relationship.

The two first met while Strong was incarcerated at the jail.

York helped detectives develop a plan that led to the arrests Monday of Strong, 28; and Douglas Ray Mobley, 29.

Sheriff’s detectives and federal agents watched York leave $5,000 at Dick’s Hamburgers on East Third Avenue about 3:50 p.m. Monday, then arrested Strong and Mobley as they tried to retrieve the money.

York told detectives Strong called him several weeks ago and the two “began a chit-chat relationship of phone calls and text messages,” Reagan said.

About two weeks ago, Strong asked York for a ride from her drug treatment program back to a halfway house where she and Mobley lived.

“One ride turned into a series of rides,” Reagan said.

York told detectives about the rides when he told them of the extortion plot Sunday.

Strong is under supervision for a federal mail theft and fraud conviction from 2007. Mobley is on federal probation for a gun conviction. Both remain in jail on new charges of felony extortion.

York, who has worked with the sheriff’s office for about five years, was placed on paid leave Monday.

Group honors jailer hurt by murder suspect

A sheriff’s deputy who fractured his neck in an encounter with one of Spokane County Jail’s most notorious inmates was honored today by a local civic group. 

Dan Leonetti received the Downtown Exchange Club’s Blue and Gold Award for law enforcement injured in the line of duty, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced this morning.

Leonetti broke a bone in his neck and injured his shoulder when he and other members of the jail’s critical response team tried to remove mentally ill accused killer Cole K. Strandberg from his cell for a court hearing on Sept. 26, 2008.

The incident was shown on cable TV in February as part of the “Behind Bars” show. Watch the clip above.

On the video, Strandberg is seen waiting at his cell door when jailers approach. Jailers rush in and slam him down, but the struggle continues and Leonetti’s head strikes a concrete wall.

Leonetti recovered and is back working at the jail. Strandberg remains in jail on one count of aggravated first-degree murder of the January 2008 crossbow slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron.

Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen ruled in January of this year that Strandberg was incompetent to stand trial; he’s been on medication since.

His next hearing is set for July 9.

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