Throwing blood-soaked gauze at guard leads to conviction

Assault forced change for officers seeking care

February 09, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

In a case that prompted Anne Arundel County jail officials to review how to get officers fast medical care after coming in contact with a prisoner's body fluid, a jury convicted an inmate yesterday of assaulting an officer by throwing his blood-drenched gauze into the officer's face.

The assault and Officer Cheryl McKeldin's 12-hour effort to get medical attention to protect herself from possible exposure to the virus that causes AIDS alarmed detention center workers, many of whom previously thought little about potential disease exposure from blood, urine and feces that inmates sometimes throw.

The incident resulted in a temporary policy change at the jail, followed by a clarification, and resulted in more officers seeking medical care after assaults.

"Since her case, people take it seriously," said Cliff Thrasher, president of the Communications Workers of America local that represents guards. "I never went before, through my ignorance, probably. But now if an unknown liquid substance is thrown in the face of an officer, you go right away."

After the assault April 23, McKeldin, 32, went to two jail-approved clinics - the first was closed and at the second, she was told to wait while patients were being treated for cuts - before going on her personal physician's advice to North Arundel Hospital's emergency room and getting antiretroviral drugs. She said yesterday that she has tested negative for HIV and hepatitis C.

Jail workers who fear they might have been exposed to such diseases are now directed to go to the clinic and to an emergency room when the clinic is closed, said Robin Harting, administrator of the county jail in Annapolis.

McKeldin said yesterday that she hopes her experience and a long sentence for the inmate will help other correctional officers.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury convicted Georgia Green, 43, of second-degree assault on a correctional officer. Green, who was in jail awaiting a probation violation hearing at the time of the incident, claims to be a man whose sexual orientation is female, and asked the court during the trial to change his name in court papers from George to Georgia.

The maximum sentence for the crime is 10 years. By law, the sentence must be added to the time the prisoner is serving.

"I'm going to ask [the Department of Corrections] for a lot of time ... because of the heinous nature of the crime," said Pamela K. Alban, assistant state's attorney. Sentencing is set for next month.

Assistant public defender Jeremiah J. Sullivan, argued that guards beat his client in an excessive use of force that caused the injury. Green, he said, flung the soggy gauze in desperation.

Jurors believed Alban and the guards. In the incident, Green was being moved to another cell and started spitting and cursing, according to testimony.

Guards said Green, on the cell floor, banged his forehead into the handcuffs. They said he sought ice for the wound, then threatened McKeldin and pitched the blood-soaked gauze into her face.

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