Motion To Dismiss Charges In Kangaroo Court At US Torture Prison At Guantanamo Bay Based On Unlawful Influence By G.W. Bush And Obama

May 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Defense lawyers in the Sept. 11 case at Guantanamo are seeking the testimony of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama in a motion to dismiss charges, according to a legal motion released Wednesday.

Lawyers for three of the five defendants charged with planning and helping carry out the attacks say the charges should be dismissed because Bush, Obama and other top officials have made many statements that could influence potential jurors in their eventual trial before a special tribunal known as a military commission, according to the motion.

They have exerted what is known as “unlawful influence,” over the case with such statements as calling the defendants “terrorists,” and saying they must be brought to justice, the lawyers argue.

“Under these facts, it is impossible for any objective, disinterested observer, with knowledge of all the facts and circumstances, to believe these men can receive a fair trial by military commission,” they wrote.

Also among those called to testify are Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who has been active in detainee policy, as well as several Pentagon officials.

The motion was filed May 11 but was only just released on a Pentagon website following a security review. It will be up to the military judge to decide whether to call any of the witnesses to the stand at the U.S. base in Cuba and such an outcome would seem unlikely. The judge may just require written briefs in what is one of many pretrial motions pending in the case.

Prosecutors have not filed a response.

The five defendants, including the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were arraigned at Guantanamo on May 5 on charges that include terrorism and murder. They could get the death penalty if convicted.

The brief was submitted by the defense lawyers for three of the men: Ramzi Binalshibh of Yemen; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia; and Pakistani national Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali.

A prohibition on improper influence is an important tenet of the military justice system, intended to prevent higher ranking officers from attempting to sway a case being tried by people over whom they have command.

“For the past 10 years, through the administrations of two presidents, these accused have consistently been described as ‘thugs,’ ‘murderers’ and ‘terrorists’ who ‘planned the 9/11 attacks’ and must ‘face justice,'” the lawyers wrote. “It can easily be understood by members of the public that this system of military commissions exists solely for the purpose of imposing a death sentence upon these accused.”

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After Years Of Brutal Torture And Mistreatment At Hands Of US Government, 5 Alleged Terrorists Being Tried In Kangaroo Court System Rigged To Prevent Defense Lawyers From Doing Their Jobs

May 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Silence and occasional outbursts from accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others during their arraignment were signs of “peaceful resistance to an unjust system,” an attorney representing one of the men said Sunday.

“These men have endured years of inhumane treatment and torture,” James Connell, who is representing defendant Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, told reporters at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. naval base where the men are being tried before a military court.

Connell’s comments came after a 13-hour court session on Saturday — the first appearance in a military courtroom for Mohammed and four others since charges were re-filed against them in connection with the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The hearing, which wrapped just before 10:30 p.m., offered a rare glimpse of the five men who have not been seen publicly since January 2009, when they were first charged by a military tribunal. Mohammed, Ali and the others — Walid Muhammad Salih, Mubarak bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi — appeared to work together to defy the judge’s instructions, refusing to speak or cooperate with courtroom protocol.

On Sunday, attorneys representing them told reporters that the proceedings had been unfair to their clients. Prosecutors were expected to speak to reporters later Sunday.

“We are hamstrung … before we ever start,” said David Nevin, who is representing Mohammed. “The system is a rigged game to prevent us from doing our jobs.”

The silence from the defendants — some of whom ignored the judge, while others appeared to be reading — slowed the proceedings to a crawl.

Bin ‘Attash was wheeled into the courtroom in a restraining chair. It was unclear why he was the only defendant brought into court in that manner, though he was allowed out of restraints after he promised not to disrupt court proceedings. Toward the end of the day, he took off his shirt while his attorney was describing injuries she alleged he sustained while in custody.

The judge told bin ‘Attash, “No!” and warned that he would be removed from the courtroom if he did not follow directions.

At one point, bin ‘Attash made a paper airplane and placed it on top of a microphone. It was removed after a translator complained about the sound the paper made against the microphone.

The judge, Col. James Pohl, needed the five to vocally confirm their desire to be represented by the attorneys who accompanied them to court. Because the defendants refused to cooperate, Pohl ruled the men would continue to be represented by their current military and civilian attorneys.

All five men are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.

If convicted, they face the death penalty.

There were so many allegations behind the charges, it took more than two hours for officers of the court just to read into the record the details of the 9/11 hijackings.

Earlier, the refusal of the defendants to speak caused an issue with the court translations.

Mohammed’s lawyer said that his client “will decline to communicate with the court.”

Because the men wouldn’t speak, the judge could not confirm that they could hear the translation of the proceedings. Time elapsed while they set up loudspeakers in the court to carry the translations. Some lawyers objected to this solution, too, and translation remained a problem at the outset of the hearing.

Pohl said he would enter a not guilty plea on Mohammed’s behalf, if he refused to enter a plea. Later, the five men chose to defer entering a plea, a routine practice during military court proceedings.

The next hearing is scheduled for June 12. It will likely be at least a year before the case goes to trial, Pohl said.

Hours into Saturday’s proceeding, one of the defendants broke his silence with an outburst.

Binalshibh shouted in heavily accented English: “You may not see us anymore,” he said. “They are going to kill us.”

During recesses, the five men talked amongst each other and appeared relaxed. They passed around a copy of The Economist.

Binalshibh appeared to lead the group twice in prayer in the courtroom, once delaying the resumption of the hearing.

Mohammed, whose long beard appeared to be dyed red by henna, was much thinner than the last time he was seen publicly in a courtroom.

He also appeared much smaller and paler than the man the world came to know through photos released after his capture in March 2003 in Pakistan.

The charges allege that the five are “responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., resulting in the killing of 2,976 people,” the Defense Department said.

The military initially charged Mohammed in 2008, but President Barack Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. naval base in Cuba.

Unable to close the center, Obama attempted to move the case to federal court in New York in 2009, only to run into a political firestorm. The plan was dropped after complaints about cost and security.

Last April, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the five would face a military trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The decision was met with some criticism, including from the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said last month that the administration is making a “terrible mistake by prosecuting the most important terrorism trials of our time in a second-tier system of justice.”

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Memoir Published By Former CIA Counterterrorism Chief Says Rep. Nancy Pelosi Lied, Saying She Had Not Been Briefed About USA’s Waterboarding Torture Technique

May 1, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – In an explosive memoir released today, former CIA counterterrorism chief Jose Rodriguez provides new evidence that Rep. Nancy Pelosi lied when she declared she had not been briefed about the use of waterboarding.

Recall that in a Capitol Hill news conference three years ago, Pelosi (D-Calif.) vehemently denied being told about the use of waterboarding at a CIA briefing in September 2002. “We were not — I repeat — were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used,” Pelosi said. She later changed her story, telling reporters, “We were told explicitly that waterboarding was not being used.” She claimed she learned about the use of waterboarding the following year, only after other lawmakers were told by the CIA. “I wasn’t briefed, I was informed that somebody else had been briefed about it,” she said.

If Rodriguez is right, each of these statements is false. But other than a chart released by the CIA noting that Pelosi, then the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, and Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), then chairman of the committee, had been given a “description of the particular [enhanced interrogation techniques] that had been employed,” there was little public evidence to contradict Pelosi’s claims. So she got away with it — until today.

In his new book, “Hard Measures,” Rodriguez reveals that he led a CIA briefing of Pelosi, where the techniques being used in the interrogation of senior al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida were described in detail. Her claim that she was not told about waterboarding at that briefing, he writes, “is untrue.”

“We explained that as a result of the techniques, Abu Zubaydah was compliant and providing good intelligence. We made crystal clear that authorized techniques, including waterboarding, had by then been used on Zubaydah.” Rodriguez writes that he told Pelosi everything, adding, “We held back nothing.”

How did she respond when presented with this information? Rodriguez writes that neither Pelosi nor anyone else in the briefing objected to the techniques being used. Indeed, he notes, when one member of his team described another technique that had been considered but not authorized or used, “Pelosi piped up immediately and said that in her view, use of that technique (which I will not describe) would have been ‘wrong.’ ” She raised no such concern about waterboarding, he writes. “Since she felt free to label one considered-and-rejected technique as wrong,” Rodriguez adds, “we went away with the clear impression that she harbored no such feelings about the ten tactics [including waterboarding] that we told her were in use.”

So we’re left with a “he said-she said” standoff? Not at all. Rodriguez writes that there’s contemporaneous evidence to back his account of the briefing. Six days after the meeting took place, Rodriguez reveals, “a cable went out from headquarters to the black site informing them that the briefing for the House leadership had taken place.” He explains that “[t]he cable to the field made clear that Goss and Pelosi had been briefed on the state of AZ’s interrogation, specifically including the use of the waterboard and other enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Rodriguez asks, “So Pelosi was another member of Congress reinventing the truth. What’s the big deal?” The big deal, he explains, is “the message they are sending to the men and women of the intelligence community who to this day are being asked to undertake dangerous and sometimes controversial actions on behalf of their government. They are told that the administration and Congress ‘have their back.’ You will forgive CIA officers if they are not filled with confidence.”

Rodriguez compares Pelosi’s actions to the opening scene of the old TV series “Mission: Impossible,” “in which the operatives were told that if anything went wrong, their leaders would ‘disavow any knowledge of your actions.’ That is not how it should work in the real world,” he writes.

It is a big deal for another reason. If Rodriguez is right, it means that Pelosi stood up in a Capitol Hill news conference and lied with a straight face to the American people; that she falsely accused a dedicated civil servant of lying to Congress as part of a political cover-up. Pelosi is hoping to become House speaker again after the November elections. Do we really want someone so ethically challenged to be third in line to the presidency?

There is a simple way to settle this once and for all. Pelosi should formally request that the Obama administration declassify the cable that was sent from headquarters to the field reporting on the details of her Sept. 4, 2002, briefing. If she refuses to do so, it should be taken as an admission by Pelosi that her account of events is a fabrication.

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Widespread Abuse Of Illegal Immigrants By U.S. Border Patrol Agents – Beatings, Denied Food And Water, Death Threats, Torture, Etc.

September 22, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Back in 2006, volunteers with No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping migrants along the Arizona-Mexico border, began hearing the same stories from many who had been in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol.

Thwarted would-be unauthorized immigrants spoke of being denied water or food during their custody. Others said they were beaten.

The organization started properly documenting these allegations, and the stories added up to nearly 13,000 testimonies whose results were released in a report this week.

The findings went beyond denial of food and water. Migrants held by the Border Patrol spoke of being exposed to extreme heat or cold, sleep deprivation, death threats, and psychological abuse such as blaring music with lyrics about migrants dying in the desert.

A previous report by No More Deaths in 2008 raised the same concerns, but now the number of recorded cases point to a systematic problem.

“By this point, the overwhelming weight of the corroborated evidence should eliminate any doubt that Border Patrol abuse is widespread,” the report states.

The Border Patrol responded with a statement highlighting the fact that respect for detainees is taught in training and consistently reinforced during an agent’s career.

“Mistreatment or agent misconduct will not be tolerated in any way,” the statement said. “We appreciate the efforts of individuals to report concerns as soon as they arise and we will continue to cooperate fully with any effort to investigate allegations of agent misconduct or mistreatment of individuals.”

The interviews were conducted with migrants in Naco, Nogales and Agua Prieta, in Mexico’s Sonora state who were in border patrol custody. Although No More Deaths conducted thousands of interviews, in places like Nogales they could only speak with a fraction of the migrants who crossed. This raised the issue of how representative their sample was, said Katerina Sinclair, a statistical consultant on the report.

But in Naco, a smaller town, they were able to speak with enough migrants to have a representative sample. So the report stays away from making conclusions about percentages except for the subset of interviewees from Naco. But despite the difficulties with such an ambitious project, the authors say that the numbers on their own are cause for concern.

Some 2,981 people reported they were denied food, and more than 11,000 said they were given insufficient food by the Border Patrol, the report states.

The report found that 863 people, many of whom were already dehydrated, were denied water.

There were nearly 6,000 cases of overcrowding reported, and almost 3,000 people had at least some personal belongings not returned, the report states.

In addition, 869 people — including 17 children and 41 teenagers — reported that they were split from their families and deported separately.

No More Deaths also recorded instances of sleep deprivation, death threats, and the forced holding of strenuous positions.

“There’s no question that there is systematic abuse of people in Border Patrol custody,” Danielle Alvarado, one of the report’s authors, told CNN.

Although the research focused on migrants in the Arizona border area, the findings are consistent with reports from Border Patrol sectors across the country, she said.

“This systematic abuse must be confronted aggressively at the institutional level, not denied or dismissed as a series of aberrational incidents attributable to a few rogue agents,” the report states.

In its statement, the Border Patrol responded that, “on a daily basis, agents make every effort to ensure that people in our custody are given food, water, and medical attention as needed.”

“The sad reality is that between what they say on paper and the day-to-day reality there is a big disconnect,” Alvarado said.

Brandon Judd, president of Local 2544, the Tucson branch of the National Border Patrol Council, said that it is No More Deaths’ report that is disconnected from reality.

Border patrol agents are law-abiding citizens who believe in accountability, he said. “If these allegations are true, these are crimes,” he said.

There are 3,000 agents in the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, Judd said, and one complaint every two weeks would be considered a lot. Agents also police themselves, he said.

“I can tell you that our agents are the ones who report mistreatment if they see it,” he said.

He was skeptical about the types of questions that were asked and the credibility of the interviewees who were freshly repatriated.

“There’s some glaring weaknesses in the story,” he said.

But Sinclair said that care was taken to make sure that all conclusions were drawn from the Naco sample, which also happened to report the lowest rate of incidents. The questions were also phrased in a way to give credit to the Border Patrol where due.

“We gave them every benefit of the doubt,” she said. But their research shows that “it only gets worse from here.”

“It just doesn’t ring true,” Judd said.

The reports of abuses come as the number of apprehensions along the border has decreased. Increased border enforcement and a slow economic recovery in the United States have reduced the amount of illegal traffic across the border.

Also, No More Deaths reported, the demographics of those being deported have changed. A number of the migrants they interviewed were older and had been in the United States longer. One sample of 100 migrants revealed an average of 14.4 years of living in the United States before deportation.

In light of its report, its authors argue for legally enforceable standards, and a tougher oversight mechanism.

From October of last year to the present, about 115,000 migrants were apprehended by the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.

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Torture: Crazed Fort Lee New Jersey Police Officers Left Teens Locked In A Van In Freezing Cold Temperatures For 14 Hours Without Food, Water, Or A Bathroom

March 28, 2011

FORT LEE, NEW JERSEY – Police who busted a Fort Lee, N.J., high school house party over the weekend left a van full of teens locked up and parked outside in the freezing cold for 14 hours without food, water or access to a bathroom.

Officials only realized what had happened after a passerby heard screams and banging from the police van where five teens were trapped, NBC New York has learned.

“We were cold, dehydrated, hungry,” said Tony, 17. “I mean it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.”

Police raided the house party at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday because of noise complaints from neighbors, according to Fort Lee borough attorney Lee Cohen.

Several kids were rounded up and driven away in the van. Then, as temperatures dropped into the 20s and 30s, they were forgotten.

Three of the teens spoke to NBC New York on Monday, on condition that their last names would not be used.

They said they tried breaking out of the van, banging and kicking its doors to no avail. They pressed up together to stay warm against the cold, as their parents wondered where they were.

“We had to huddle up together and just share body heat pretty much,” said another boy, Liam.

And without anywhere to relieve themselves, they had to urinate inside the van.

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said an internal investigation has been launched within the Fort Lee police department.

Cohen, the Fort Lee borough attorney, declined to comment on the teens left outside, other than to say the case is under “active investigation.”

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State Department Official Quits After Criticizing U.S. Military’s Abuse Of WikiLeaks Army Soldier

March 14, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley has resigned after publicly crossing swords with the Pentagon over the treatment of an Army soldier accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified military reports and sensitive diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. 

The chain of events that led to Crowley’s exit was set in motion Thursday when Crowley appeared at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology seminar and called the Pentagon’s handling of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is detained at the brig at Quantico, “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”

Crowley’s public criticism angered some at the Pentagon and others across the administration because it put him directly at odds with Defense Department officials who have spent weeks trying to defend Manning’s treatment. The soldier is being detained under near-constant lockdown, and he filed a formal complaint about being forced to strip each night at bedtime.

The State spokesman’s predicament may have worsened further Friday afternoon, when ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Obama during a White House press conference whether he agreed with Crowley.

“With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are,” Obama said. “I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.”

When Tapper pressed the president further, Obama replied tersely, “I think I gave you an answer to the substantive issue.”

Obama never said explicitly whether he agreed with the military’s handling of Manning. White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to elaborate on the president’s remarks.

In a statement Sunday, Crowley, notably made no apology for his remarks, but acknowledged that they made his continued service untenable.

“The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law. My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values,” Crowley said.

“Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs and Spokesman for the Department of State,” Crowley said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she accepted Crowley’s resignation “with regret.”

His service, she wrote, “is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best.”

According to administration officials, Crowley had been on the outs with Clinton, and rarely accompanied her on her travels abroad. Michael Hammer, President Barack Obama’s NSC spokesman, had been sent to State earlier this year, and some officials expected  him to succeed Crowley, those sources said.

However, other officials offered a somewhat conflicting version of events, saying that Crowley asked for Hammer as a deputy. The two men worked closely together at the NSC when both were spokesmen there during the Clinton Administration. One source denied any rift between Clinton and Crowley, saying the decision for him not to travel was made largely so Crowley could better oversee State’s large public affairs staff.

Crowley made his remarks about Manning in response to a question at an MIT new media roundtable Thursday in Cambridge, Mass.

“I spent 26 years in the Air Force,” Crowley, a retired colonel, said, according to blog posts by two of those present at the MIT discussion. “What is happening to Manning is ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, and I don’t know why the DoD is doing it. Nevertheless, Manning is in the right place” in detention.

Manning has formally complained that guards at the brig have harassed him and that commanders there have punished him since he was placed in custody in July.

Manning, 25, faces a possible court-martial for leaking vast troves of classified information. The Army recently upgraded the preliminary charges against him to include aiding the enemy. That can be punishable by death, though Army prosecutors said they did not plan to seek capital punishment in Manning’s case.

Earlier this month, guards began demanding that he strip off all his clothes at night. Defense officials have suggested that the measure was needed to keep Manning from attempting suicide. But Manning’s official complaint notes that Navy psychiatrists who have examined him don’t believe he’s a suicide risk.

Journalist Philippa Thomas and Internet researcher Ethan Zuckerman, who both were at the MIT discussion conference, reported Crowley’s comments.

Thomas said she later asked Crowley if his remarks were on the record. She said he had a one-word reply: “‘Sure.’”

“What I said was my personal opinion. It does not reflect an official [U.S. government] policy position,” Crowley told Foreign Policy magazine on Friday. “I defer to the Department of Defense regarding the treatment of Bradley Manning.”

“We are aware of Mr. Crowley’s remarks and have since sent him the facts on PFC Manning’s pre-trial confinement,” a Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Dave Lapan, said Saturday.

On Thursday, Manning’s defense lawyer released his client’s latest complaint about his treatment, an 11-page memo that claimed he’s being improperly held on a “prevention of injury” status and required to hand over his clothes to guards each night. The complaint said he was recently given a “smock” to wear at night.

“The determination to strip me of my clothing every night since 2 March 2011 is without justification and therefore constitutes unlawful pretrial punishment,” Manning wrote. He said Navy psychiatrists have repeatedly recommended lifting the prevention of injury restrictions but brig commanders have declined.

The order for Manning to strip at night apparently followed what he described as a sarcastic comment he made to guards — that if he were intent on strangling himself, he could use his underwear or flip-flops.

“As the result of concerns for PFC Manning’s personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours,” Lapan confirmed. “PFC Manning at all times had a bed and a blanket to cover himself. He was not made to stand naked for morning count but, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night.”

There were immediate signs Sunday that, as a result of his firing, Crowley was becoming a kind of cult hero for the left.

Jane Hamsher, writing on the liberal Firedoglake website, branded Crowley’s abrupt departure as Obama’s “Saturday Night Massacre” — a reference to the resignation of Attorney General Eliot Richardson and his deputy after they refused to carry out President Richard Nixon’s order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

In recent months, Crowley had been a key spokesperson for the administration on the WikiLeaks issue, sometimes offering harsh assessments of Manning’s alleged conduct.

“Someone inside the United States government violated the trust and confidence placed in him. He downloaded material and passed it to people not authorized to have it. That is a crime. We’re investigating that crime and we’re going to prosecute those responsible,” Crowley told CNN in December.

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$5 Million Federal Lawsuit Charges Whitfield County Georgia Deputies With Torturing 29 Inmates At County Jail

January 31, 2011

WHITFIELD COUNTY, GEORGIA – Twenty-nine northwest Georgia inmates were forced to rub cream on their bodies and stand in their cells naked for 12 hours, according to federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed against the Whitfield County sheriff’s office in U.S. District Court in Rome, seeks $5 million in punitive damages, The Daily Citizen in Dalton reported. The suit contends the inmates were humiliated while behind bars at the Whitfield County jail in October.

A sheriff’s office captain told the newspaper the cream was an anti-lice treatment. Two members of the jail staff were disciplined following the incident, according to the report.

“They came into the dorm and told us to strip, and never told us why,” David Bennett, one of the two inmates that filed the suit, told the newspaper. “They said it’d be for a couple of hours with no covering. I’ve been in prison, but this had never happened. It seemed absurd to me. I was physically sick for a week afterward from the cold, and all because they think some 18-year-old kid who had left the day before had lice.”

Bennett has been arrested and booked 35 times at the Whitfield County jail since 1999, according to documents provided by the sheriff’s office. His most recent arrest in October was for sale of methamphetamine, use of a communication facility in drug transactions, felony probation violation and giving false information to officers, the newspaper reported.

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