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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Florida the rules are different here Chapter CXXXV

A trial is taking place in Broward County right now. Terry Lee Alexander, a convicted bank robber who is already sentenced to ten years, is being tried for indecent exposure. For masturbating in his jail cell before his bank robbery trial. Sound ridiculous? I mean the charge is a misdemeanor, the guy is in jail for 10 years already, and doesn't our corrections officials and legal system have better things to do. Sounds like the Broward County legal system is a little too hands on for any rational person but what do you expect in a part of Florida where the Sheriff is being investigated by a Federal Grand Jury, A judge gets arrested for smoking pot and cops who arrest clearly innocent people or traffic in heroin? In other counties, prisoners who practice this econo pleasure, are handled with write-ups and internal discipline. Instead Broward taxpayers will be footing a trial, an attorney for Mr. Alexander and what for?

Just read the article and shake your head. While you're at it, read this Miami Herald article about the Prosecutor's questioning of jurors. You got to love Florida.

Linked to- Bullwinkle, Perri Nelson, The World According to Carl,

Terry Lee Alexander thought he was having a private moment in his jail cell.

But a deputy jailer thought otherwise.

Alexander, 20, was sitting on his bunk alone in his cell masturbating when a female deputy, monitoring his cell from a nearby control room, took offense.

Today he's scheduled to go to trial to fight a misdemeanor indecent exposure charge and the maximum one-year jail sentence that would go with a conviction. The incident occurred in November.

Although masturbation, a common jailhouse occurrence, violates most jail and prison rules, it doesn't often result in criminal charges. It is generally dealt with internally with a disciplinary write-up and temporary loss of phone or recreation privileges, Florida jail and prison officials said.

To discourage the behavior in Broward jails, the Sheriff's Office encourages deputies to file criminal charges, said Elliot Cohen, the agency's spokesman.

Deputy Coryus Veal seems to have taken that mission to heart: She has brought similar charges against seven other inmates in six months.

Alexander's court-appointed defense attorney, Kathleen McHugh, said her client did nothing wrong, he was alone, and his cell, tantamount to his home, is not open to the public.

"I think the government's gone awry," McHugh said. "Has it been a slow year in crime that they've got to go prosecute masturbation in the Broward County Jail? Aren't there more heinous crimes to prosecute, like drug trafficking or sexual predators?"

The crime is not masturbation, Cohen emphasized, it's indecent exposure. And privacy is among the many rights an inmate forfeits in jail.

"That's why there are no doors on the bathrooms. That's why detention deputies monitor what you do and when you do it," Cohen said. "That's what jail is."

Alexander was charged with indecent exposure last November while waiting in jail to resolve an armed robbery case. Veal saw him from a centrally located control room that allows deputies to view cells.

"Generally, we prosecute such cases in which the inmate exposes himself in such plain view of the detention staff or other persons," said Ron Ishoy, spokesman for the Broward State Attorney's Office.

Were it not for this pending charge, Alexander would have moved to the state prison system months ago.

Twelve days after the cell incident, he pleaded guilty to the armed robbery and received a 10-year prison sentence.Broward taxpayers have been footing the bill — $91.29 a day — to keep Alexander in the main jail while the indecent exposure case has worked its way to a trial date. The grand total for Alexander's incarceration in that case is nearly $21,000. On top of that, the public will pay $1,150 for his attorney.

Deputy Veal, 45, a nearly nine-year veteran with the Broward Sheriff's Office, referred all questions to its media relations department when reached at her home Monday evening. "We're not allowed to speak to the media," she said.

In each of the eight arrest affidavits Veal has written, she cites the "vulgar and indecent manner" in which the activity is conducted. Those are key components of the state's indecent exposure statute.

Some critics are appalled at what they call a deputy's "moral crusade" and question the value of prosecuting such cases.

"I would think [taxpayers] would be upset that this is how their money is being spent," said Betsy Benson, a Broward assistant public defender who trains new attorneys. "I'm very confused as to why they would think this is a good use of our dollars, our judges, the court's time and the jurors' time."

Inmates indulge in masturbation for a variety of reasons, said Trudy Block-Garfield, a forensic psychologist.

"It's normal human behavior and these people are locked up, they're behind bars and it relieves a variety of stressors including boredom," she said. "But some aren't only doing it to relieve stress or tension or boredom. You have some who do it for shock value."

Shock value wasn't the motive with Alexander and Veal, McHugh said.

"She's completely removed from him in a master control station behind glass, and he's in his own cell sitting on his bunk," she said. "Is it truly vulgar and offensive if one, out of however many deputies that are in that jail, find it offensive?"

Alexander has been offered time served but rejected it, not wanting to risk a possible sexual-offender charge and the liabilities that come with it, McHugh said. Of Veal's seven other cases, three are pending, three took plea deals and the state dropped the charges in one case. The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office responds to similar episodes with write-ups and internal discipline, said Teri Barbera, the agency's spokeswoman.

But in Miami-Dade County, the corrections department has had recent discussions with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office about pursuing criminal charges against inmates, said Janelle Hall, spokeswoman for the corrections department.

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