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INMATE ABUSE CASE Deputy gets plea deal with prosecutors



Published: Thu, February 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



His potential sentence went from years to months because of the plea.

CLEVELAND -- One of four Mahoning County deputy sheriffs accused of beating a jail inmate struck a plea deal with prosecutors late Wednesday, less than a week before his trial.

Raymond Hull pleaded guilty to two counts related to the beating of Tahwan Easterly in exchange for a reduced sentence and a dropped third charge.

Three other deputies charged in the beating are set to go on trial Monday.

Of eight sheriff's department members charged in the beating, Hull, 35, of Youngstown, is the fourth to plead guilty. Hull faced two counts of aiding and abetting in depriving an inmate of his right to be free from excessive force, plus one count of conspiracy. Prosecutors dropped one of the excessive force charges in the plea agreement.

Without pleading, Hull could have been sentenced to several years; that should go down to between 12 and 18 months under recommended legal guidelines, said Boardman attorney John F. Shultz, Hull's counsel.

The agreement also requires Hull to cooperate with all investigations and legal cases conducted at any level of government. Hull said he doesn't know whether he will be asked to testify against his colleagues next week.

Others

Three others who have pleaded guilty in the beating testified against Budd.

Former jail supervisors William DeLuca and Ronald Denson and former deputy Ronald Kaschak said Budd ordered the beating of Easterly and made Kaschak write a false report about it. None still works for the department.

The two supervisors resigned before being charged; Kaschak was fired after he pleaded guilty.

Hull declined to comment on whether he plans to stay with the department until his sentencing in May.

Evidence

In next week's trial, prosecutors will be allowed to use as evidence deputy Ryan Strange's earlier accounts of the Easterly beating, including a confession in which he played a role.

U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells ruled Wednesday that federal prosecutors did not mislead Strange into making the admission a year ago in FBI interviews and before a grand jury, and that they may use those statements when Strange and deputies Mark Dixon and John Rivera go on trial next week.

Strange, 28, of Vienna, had sought to suppress his earlier testimony, arguing it was a product of government misconduct. He contended attorneys led him to believe he was not a target of the federal investigation into Easterly's beating when he described his and others' involvement in front of the grand jury.

That belief gave him reason to give up his right not to testify against himself, said Strange's attorney, Scott R. Cochran.

"He [was] making the decision whether to waive his constitutional rights, and he's basing it upon their representation that he's not a target," Cochran said.

Government attorneys argued Strange was aware that he could make himself a target by testifying against himself. Court transcripts show Strange said he understood that, they said.

They also noted that Strange had changed his account of the beating in two interviews immediately before he testified in January 2004.

"He continued to add information," said U.S. attorney Matthew B. Kall. "His position changed moments before he went to the grand jury."




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