Ecker to make report on jury's critical jail assessment Executive supports detention center director

February 07, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday he will send a report to Circuit Court within the next two weeks concerning a county grand jury's critical assessment of the Howard County Detention Center.

Ecker said he had received a response from James N. "Buck" Rollins, the jail director, reacting to the grand jury's report calling for an independent panel to review management of the center, but would give no further details.

Ecker's reiteration of his support for Rollins came on the day that a controversial jail commander appeared in District Court on charges of beating a handcuffed inmate.

Said Ecker of Rollins: "I am not going to take any action against Mr. Rollins. No way. I think he is doing a wonderful job."

The 361-bed prison, which has been run by Rollins since 1990, has come under increased scrutiny over the last year with reports of an inmate suicide, alleged inmate beatings and alleged sexual contact between guards and inmates.

Last month, a county grand jury, which had been investigating the jail for months, called for an oversight panel to review the center's hiring practices and handling of officer grievances.

The grand jury also has indicted two jail officers on charges of assaulting a handcuffed inmate in one incident and one of the same two guards -- Thomas V. Kimball, a top-ranked jail shift commander -- on charges of assaulting another inmate in a second incident.

At yesterday's hearing on charges from one of those incidents, Kimball told District Court Judge Richard O. Motsay that he wanted a jury to decide whether he is guilty of beating inmate Michael A. Saukas on Feb. 24. Such a request sends the case to Circuit Court, where it is expected to be heard within three months.

Before Kimball made the request, the prosecutor and defense attorney battled over whether an agreement signed by Saukas and county prosecutors last June prevented Kimball from being taken to court on assault and battery charges.

The controversy centers on a scuffle between Saukas and jail officers after Saukas refused to return to his jail cell last February. Saukas alleges that Kimball beat him while he was handcuffed.

Kimball also filed assault charges against Saukas in the same incident. But in June, prosecutors agreed to drop those charges if Saukas signed an unusual release form -- promising not to file a civil lawsuit against the jail, the county or Kimball, prosecutors said.

Almost immediately afterward, Saukas filed criminal charges against Kimball.

Yesterday, Kimball's attorney, Timothy J. McCrone argued that the release form precluded Saukas from filing criminal as well as civil charges against Kimball. Kimball testified that he never would have consented to the agreement otherwise.

"This state's attorney's office has double-dealt Captain Kimball either through malpractice or intentional deception," McCrone said. "It is an outrage."

Assistant State's Attorney Debra Saltz argued successfully that the state's agreement with Saukas dealt only with civil matters. "The state has not given up any rights" to prosecute Kimball, Saltz argued.

After a long hearing, Motsay agreed with the state -- ruling the agreement prohibited Saukas only from filing a civil suit.

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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