Assault case filed against inmate ends Counts against him dropped

no abuse lawsuit, he agrees

Deal is 'very rare'

Shift commander had accused prisoner of assault and battery

June 14, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

In an unusual deal, the Howard County state's attorney's office dropped charges yesterday against an inmate accused of assaulting a county jail captain, in exchange for an agreement that the inmate would not sue the county or its employees for alleged abuses in jail.

"It's very rare," said Christine Gage, District Court chief for the county state's attorney's office, of the last-minute deal approved by District Judge Lenore R. Gelfman. "We certainly would have tried this case... [but] all parties agreed this would be an appropriate outcome."

Michael Alexander Saukas, 23, of Ellicott City was accused of assault and battery against former shift commander Thomas V. Kimball Jr., during a scuffle with the captain at the Howard County Detention Center on Feb. 24.

Jail incident reports state that Saukas, who remains in jail on a probation violation, was returning from the visitors area, refused to return to his cell and had to be forcibly taken to the lockup. During the scuffle, Kimball alleges that Saukas kicked him once in the right shin and again just above the right knee.

Saukas said in interviews with The Sun that he was beaten while handcuffed. In response to the charges against him, Saukas wrote to the county District Court clerk, asking how to press charges in the incident.

He never filed charges in the case. But the possibility of a civil lawsuit against the county, the jail, Kimball and other jail employees -- which Gage said was threatened by Saukas' attorney, Jason Shapiro -- apparently was enough to have Saukas' charges dropped in this case.

"As a criminal defense attorney, it's your job to defend your clients as zealously as possible," Shapiro said yesterday. "It's the same as a 'not guilty' " verdict, he said of the decision by the state's attorney's office to drop the charges.

Kimball -- who was not a certified correctional officer at the time and has been removed from his position as shift commander -- would not comment yesterday about the February incident. But he supported the court's decision to drop the charges against Saukas in exchange for Saukas agreeing not to sue.

"That's the way the court decided to do it," said Kimball, who before yesterday had declined to comment on the case. "I have (( no problems with that."

In addition to the Saukas case, Kim-ball has been embroiled in other controversies at the jail for several months.

He has been accused by subordinates of using intimidation with other jail employees. And inquiries by The Sun about his work history showed that he was not certified to be a correctional officer at the Howard County jail.

Kimball's certification lapsed in 1989, after he resigned as assistant warden at the Eastern Correctional Institution (ECI) in Somerset County amid allegations of drug use by a subordinate.

After he left ECI, Kimball worked as the District Court commissioner for Wicomico County, but didn't work in corrections again until he came to Howard in February 1994.

State regulations require those who have not worked in corrections for three years or more to take a five-week training program through the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions.

When his lack of certification became known last month, Kimball was reassigned to administrative duties at the Howard County jail.

Earlier this week, jail officials asked state oversight commissions to waive the training requirement for Kimball because of his 19 years of work in corrections.

But when it became clear that members would reject the waiver or an expedited training program for Kimball, jail officials said they would enroll him in the five-week training program.

Speaking for the first time about his lack of certification, Kimball said yesterday that he didn't realize he needed the courses.

"It was an oversight," Kimball said. "It just wasn't done."

Kimball said he is enrolled in the program that runs July 8 $H through Aug. 9.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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