Friday, March 18, 2005


Atlanta Courthouse Murders - Article on Corruption

Backcountry Conservative sends this article from the AP on the corruption in Atlanta's Sheriffs department.

A county jail so dangerous it was taken over by the federal
government. A sheriff who diverted millions in public money into
money-losing investments. An escape by an inmate while a rapper was
making a music video behind bars.

And now, a horror far worse than even the strongest critics of
Atlanta's Fulton County Sheriff's Department could have predicted: A
man being tried in a rape case is accused of overpowering a courthouse
deputy, taking her gun and going on a rampage, leaving four people
dead, including a judge.

The bloodbath last week has law enforcement agencies across the nation
tightening courthouse security and experts talking about the
complexities of securing courtrooms. This kind of violence could
happen elsewhere, too, the thinking seems to go.

But people who follow or work with the Fulton County Sheriff's
Department, which runs the jail and is responsible for courthouse
security, suggest there is a reason it happened here and not someplace
else. They talk about a department prone to security lapses and long
bloated with poorly trained deputies.

"If it could happen anywhere, why hasn't it?" said J. Danny Stephens,
a longtime Atlanta homicide detective who made an unsuccessful bid for
sheriff last year. "The sheriff's department has been in trouble for
umpteen years. This is a story of total, total mismanagement."

Sheriff Myron Freeman clearly has been staggered by the courthouse
violence. At news conferences, he repeatedly mentioned that he has
been on the job just two months. He could not answer questions about
how courthouse deputies are trained or why a 51-year-old, 5-foot
female deputy was left alone with Brian Nichols, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound
former college linebacker.

The county jail was monitored by the federal government for six months
last year because of security lapses and squalid conditions.

Among the troubles: a series of escapes or accidental releases,
overcrowding, inadequate health care and plumbing so bad that sewage
sometimes gushed on the first floor.

Last summer, rapper Clifford Harris, known as T.I., was allowed to use
a maximum-security cell, guards and inmates as props and extras for a
music video. That same night, a female inmate dressed in medical
scrubs escaped.

The problems may have extended beyond the jail. Security cameras
recorded Nichols' alleged attack on the deputy guarding him, but
apparently no one was watching the screens before the judge and a
court reporter were killed, according to The Atlanta

The funeral was held Thursday for Judge Rowland Barnes, who was
remembered as a fair, fun-loving jurist. Earlier Thursday, services
were held in Salisbury, N.C., for Immigration and Customs Agent David
Wilhelm, who was found shot to death in his Atlanta home Saturday.
Authorities believe Nichols killed Wilhelm.

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