Tuesday, March 27, 2001

New Warren jail release follows promised change




By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — In an incident that Warren County officials had promised not to repeat, a Mason man who was jailed for threatening his estranged wife was set free for five days even though probation officers wanted him held.

        The release of David Brian Richardson, 40, came less than a year after county officials agreed to change jail procedures and paid $610,000 to relatives of Suzie Thompson for wrongfully releasing the ex-boyfriend who killed her.

        In that case, corrections officers freed William Chap man on a holiday furlough even though they had an order from the probation department to hold him.

        Ms. Thompson's family — the Desfosses of Mason — and their attorneys say they consider the latest problem a serious one and plan to meet with county officials today for an explanation.

        “Only one person has a

        key to that cell,” said Al Gerhardstein, one of two lawyers representing the Desfosses. “That's where we start and that's where we end.”

        Sheriff Tom Ariss said he is working to change procedures so the latest mistake doesn't repeat itself. He blamed it on confusion in the jail's paperwork.

        According to sheriff's officials, Mr. Richardson was released March 16 when he posted a $5,000 bond on a felony weapons charge and a misdemeanor for violating a protection order involving his wife, Angela Richardson. A grand jury indicted him on those charges after Mrs. Richardson filed a domestic violence charge against him in November.

        Her complaint triggered a probation violation against Mr. Rich ardson, who was serving three years on probation for a 1999 domestic violence case involving his wife.

        Upon his release, Warren County turned Mr. Richardson over to the sheriff's office in Butler County, where he was wanted for contempt of court for an unpaid fine. He posted bond there and was set free again the following day, Butler County jail records show.

        Capt. Tim Lamb, the jail warden, said he learned of the mix-up Wednesday after a victim's advocate questioned why Mrs. Richardson wasn't notified that her husband was set free.

        He said no one at the jail contacted Mrs. Richardson because they did not have information about her whereabouts. She could not be reached for comment.

        Mr. Richardson surrendered at the jail Thursday after learning county authorities were seeking him.

        His lawyer, John Quinn, convinced Mr. Richardson to surrender after probation officers enlisted his help. He said his client should never have been released.

        “He said he even tried to tell them he was supposed to stay in jail. He said, "Look. I've got my work release bracelet on,'” Mr. Quinn said.

        “It was the same screw-up they made before. It's the same mistake they made when they let the guy out that killed his ex-girlfriend.”

        In that case, the county signed an agreement with the Desfosses specifically stating that: “Warren County Jail personnel shall not release any prisoner so long as there is an active holder in their possession signed by a probation, parole or furlough officer.”

        Yvon Desfosses, Ms. Thompson's father, was troubled to learn about the latest error. He mhad et with Sheriff Ariss, County Prosecutor Tim Oliver and other officials a month ago to discuss improvements at the jail. Such meetings are part of the settlement signed last July.

        “They promised us they were supposed to be watching more closely, that there was supposed to be an better system,” Mr. Desfosses said.

        Mr. Gerhardstein said he is not sure whether the family will take legal action over what could be seen as a violation of the agreement.

        “We were looking for reform,” he said. “The intent was to work with people who really were promising to get things done.”

       



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