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Judge: Letters will make no difference



Published: Fri, April 1, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Three letters from an inmate led to several changes in the jail.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. has this message for Mahoning County jail inmates: "Don't write to me."

In a filing Thursday, Judge Dowd said he received three letters from inmate Edward Anderson, one each day for three days. The Akron federal judge said the letters seemed to be seeking legal advice.

Because Anderson's letters made comments about jail conditions, the judge said it was appropriate to put them on the record. On March 10, the judge determined the crowded and understaffed jail violates inmates' constitutional rights, and he is taking steps to correct the problem.

"It appears Mr. Anderson will be sending a letter every day. Presumably, more are on the way as this order is being drafted," Judge Dowd wrote. "However, Mr. Anderson -- and all inmates -- are now on notice that any subsequent letters will not be made part of the record or otherwise considered in any way."

The judge directed the clerk to send a copy of the order to Anderson at the jail on Fifth Avenue.

Initial letter

Anderson, in a two-page letter, describes himself as a 59-year-old "Vietnam veteran and defender of our Constitution who had the misfortune of having a carnal relationship with a young female who was found dead in an alley." He said the woman was last seen alive leaving a house they shared with others.

Vindicator files show the victim, Mary Thompson, 32, was shot four times July 15, 2004, on the South Side. Anderson is charged with murder and has been in jail since Aug. 6, 2004.

Anderson railed against the detective and judge on his case.

The letters also contain motions to dismiss his case.

In a six-page letter, Anderson complained about being locked in his cell for too many hours. He said he used to be active, but now he feels like 159 years old.

"Toilets don't work, elevators don't work, deputies don't work," he wrote. "Nothing in this building works except the deputies' mouths. ...You can't shave, you can't shower. There is no help."

He complained that a phone call costs $3, with $2.50 to be used for inmates' recreation equipment and the library. He said they don't have either.

He described the food in simple terms: "It's pure garbage." He said the air is recycled and the water contaminated.

Lawsuit

Except for the air and water, most of Anderson's complaints were raised in the class-action lawsuit that led Judge Dowd to conclude the jail conditions represent cruel and unusual punishment.

In a related matter Thursday, Toledo attorney Vincent M. Nathan, newly appointed special master for the jail, asked for Judge Dowd's permission to hire Cory Nafziger as a part-time assistant for $25 per hour and reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. The statute governing Nathan's hourly rate shows a range of $40 to $60.

Nathan will act as a fact finder and make recommendations to Judge Dowd on how to make the jail constitutionally sound.

Nafziger is pursuing a master of arts degree in criminal justice at the University of Toledo, where Nathan is a professor. Nafziger will increase his ability to complete assignments and reports on a timely basis, Nathan said.

Nafziger will become an intern with the U.S. Marshals Service when he graduates in May, Nathan said.

meade@vindy.com




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