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MAHONING JAIL Career criminal mistakenly freed



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



The sheriff blamed current budget woes for the breakdown.

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Mahoning County inmate described as a career burglar jailed on a burglary charge while on parole was released in error Sunday.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington said Wednesday that William R. Crowell was inadvertently released. "The intake deputy marked bond [on the card], but he wasn't to be bonded out," he said. Wellington blamed the current budget crisis that has led to staff layoffs for the mix-up.

"I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often the way we're multitasking here. We're answering calls in the county from here, and we're transporting inmates to county courts. I expect it's going to happen more often in the future as we get into the layoffs."

The sheriff, who requested a $16.9 million budget allocation for 2005, was allocated $7.5 million. As a result, he is planning massive layoffs in the coming months.

Back in custody

The sheriff said Crowell, 39, was apprehended Wednesday afternoon by the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force.

City Prosecutor Dionne M. Almasy said there should have been steps taken along the way -- such as checking with the clerk of court and Crowell's parole officer -- before the inmate was released. She said officials at the jail admitted it was their mistake.

"I'm shocked and dismayed at this," Almasy said. "It's very disturbing."

After learning that Crowell had been released from jail, she had warrants issued Wednesday for his arrest on the original charges of burglary, failure to comply with a police order and obstruction of official business.

No bond posted

"He didn't post bond," Almasy said. "No bond was posted with the clerk of court, and no release was sent by the clerk to the jail."

The sheriff acknowledged that the clerk's office faxes documents to the jail showing that bond has been posted before an inmate's release. He said the error occurred because the intake deputy inadvertently put some other inmate's release information on Crowell's docket card.

"It was a mistake. The deputy made a mistake, that's what happened and, like I said, I look for it, with the problems we're having here, I'm really not surprised," Wellington said.

The sheriff said the intake deputy will likely face no disciplinary action..

"As I told you, these people are overwhelmed with work," the sheriff said. "I don't foresee any disciplinary action."

Almasy said Crowell has a "horrific" history of burglary and was paroled from prison in December 2004. Records show he was sent to prison in January 1997 to serve a 12 to 35-year term on three aggravated burglary convictions and one theft conviction, all in Mahoning County.

The prosecutor said she recalled that Crowell had once escaped from a Tennessee prison.

Arrested on alias

Patrolman Frank Bigowsky arrested Crowell on Friday evening after a foot chase on Youngstown-Poland Road. Crowell identified himself as James Ray Wright and said he was homeless.

When arrested the suspect was carrying a sewing case, rolls of coins, an FOP ring and a graduation ring from The Rayen School, all items which were later positively identified by a couple in their 80s who live in the 1900 block of Medford Avenue. The elderly couple had returned home around 10 p.m. Friday to find their place ransacked.

Bigowsky, in his report, said the man he placed under arrest gave a couple of Social Security numbers and his true identity needed to be verified.




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