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September 2010

Court appearance for T. Don Hutto's accused groping guard

A former guard at Corrections Corporation of America's T. Don Hutto detention center, Donald Charles Dunn, who was accused of multiple charges of groping female prison inmates had his first court appearance Wednesday morning. The Williamson County chief criminal prosecutor stated that this appearance will be some pretrial housekeeping to make sure Dunn has a lawyer lined up. Dunn faces multiple misdemeanor charges for his misconduct while acting as a guard in CCA's T. Don Hutto immigrant detention facility.  ("Accused groper has his first court date Wednesday," Brad Stutzman, Round Rock Reader, September 6, 2010)

...Dunn is charged with five separate misdemeanors in Williamson County, relating to five separate female victims. It is also alleged Dunn victimized three women in Travis County...
...During an Aug. 20 news conference the day after Dunn's arrest in Austin, Williamson County Sheriff's Sgt. John Foster said Dunn is charged in Williamson County with three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint. He has supposedly confessed to the crimes.
"He told us how he carried this out and the victims verified it," Foster said. Each of the five charges against Dunn is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

According to a sheriff's office news release, victims told Williamson County and federal authorities "that they were inappropriately touched outside of their clothing on their breast, vaginal or buttocks areas." The gropings allegedly occurred while Dunn was driving the women from T. Don Hutto to the airport or bus station in Austin, after they had bonded out of the facility...
...The alleged Williamson County gropings supposedly happened near a convenience store in the Coupland area - off FM 973, which is a road running between Taylor and Austin. Victims told investigators Dunn would frisk them - sometimes when they were being transported alone and sometimes in groups, Foster said, adding frisking was not part of CCA's standard transport procedure.

The crimes Dunn is accused of committing first came to light in May, when one of the women made an outcry to an employee at Austin-Bergstrom. The airport employee alerted the Austin Police Department, which in turn notified the sheriff's office May 11.

Foster said CCA policy calls for two employees - not just one - to transport women, and Dunn violated that policy.

It is not clear how Dunn allegedly circumvented CCA policy.

Dunn was subsequently fired from his job at T. Don Hutto and the facility's administrator, Evelyn Hernandez, has also lost her job, sources said.

The report states Dunn is charged with official oppression and two counts of restraint. Given the set of reported facts, it looks like CCA and/or Dunn could even face an additional lawsuit. The women allegedly abused could sue CCA for negligence, given that CCA's own policy is to have more than one person transporting women from the facility and their own guideline was ignored.

Whether or not these charges will be brought into court remains to be seen, but it's clear that CCA is concerned enough about the case that they've dismissed long-time Hutto head Evelyn Hernandez. 

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Immigrant detained at MTC's Willacy County Processing Center escapes, is quickly captured

An

immigrant detained at MTC's Willacy County Processing Center escaped briefly on Tuesday, drawing a response by local and federal law enforcement officials, according to a story by Michael Barajas at the Valley Morning Star ("Detainee escapes from agents during doctor's appointment," September 1),

Local police and federal agents searched the Harlingen area Tuesday morning for a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainee who escaped from agents during an appointment at a local doctor’s office.

Jose Morales Rodriguez, a 34-year-old El Salvador national, escaped from federal custody while at a local doctor’s office, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said Tuesday. She did not release the name of the office from which Rodriguez escaped.

ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents along with officers from the Harlingen and San Benito police departments searched the area for the escaped detainee for roughly an hour and a half Tuesday morning. Rodriguez was found hiding in the brush along Helen Moore Road shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, she said.

Rodriguez, a detainee at the Willacy County ICE detention facility in Raymondville, was at a scheduled doctor’s appointment, routine for some detainees, Pruneda said. She did not explain how Rodriguez evaded authorities, saying ICE is currently investigating the incident.  Rodriguez has no known criminal convictions or arrests, Pruneda said.

The Willacy County Processing Center is MTC's notorious "Tent City" detention center, which last week was highlighted by a Human Rights Watch report on sexual assualt in detention centers.

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CCA spends $240K lobbying federal agencies, against transparancy in second quarter

Corrections Corporation of America spent $240,000 in the second quarter of 2010 lobbying federal agencies and against transparency legislation that would subject private prisons to similar freedom of information act requests as publicly-operated facilities, according to an article ("Corrections Corp. spent $240,000 on 2Q lobbying," September 1) in Business Week,

Prison operator Corrections Corp. of America spent $240,000 lobbying federal officials in the second quarter. That's down slightly from the $250,000 it spent on lobbying in the first quarter of 2010 and the $260,000 it spent lobbying in the second quarter of last year.

The company said it lobbied on issues related to the private prison industry and on all provisions of the Safe Prisons Communications Act of 2009 and the Private Prison Information Act of 2009, among other topics.

Aside from Congress, Corrections Corp. also lobbied the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement in the April-to-June quarter, according to a report filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives on July 20.

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