State Digest


January 23, 2007

Lawyers call guards blameless in Iko case

The officers who extracted a prisoner from his cell at the Western Correctional Institution - an inmate who died of asphyxiation as a result - acted in accordance with their training standards for dealing with a "delusional" prisoner who had previously attacked correctional officers and other inmates, attorneys for the state prison system said yesterday.

The attorneys made their statement in a court filing requesting dismissal of a $28 million federal lawsuit against the state stemming from the 2004 death of Ifeanyi A. Iko after his forcible removal at the prison near Cumberland. The death was ruled a homicide.

While the lawsuit alleges that correctional officers used "unreasonable and illegal" force in their handling of the Nigerian immigrant, lawyers for the prison system said Iko had previously stabbed and bitten a correctional officer and bitten off the tips of a cellmate's fingers, according to a summary filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

In October 2002, according to the court papers, Iko's cellmate at the prison told the staff, "This [expletive] bit my fingers off," referring to Iko, and the cellmate displayed his hand to show the "tips of his left middle finger and right thumb were missing. The severed portion of the thumb was found on the cell's floor."

In July 1992, while serving a three-year sentence for a felony drug conviction at the Eastern Correctional Institution, the court documents say, Iko used a 5 1/2 -foot piece of metal that he had fashioned from the hinge of the cell's locker and stabbed a correctional officer in his right bicep during an attempted cell extraction.

Gary Adler, attorney for the Iko family, said yesterday: "If there was ever a case of deliberate indifference to human life, this case exemplifies it." He said he wanted to reserve comment on the state's request for dismissal until he has a chance to review it.

Officers emptied three cans of pepper spray into Iko's cell, placed a "spit mask" on his face and, after moving him to another cell, leaned on his body at one point to restrain him, according to court documents and other records.

In ruling Iko's death a homicide, the state medical examiner's office said it was caused by "chemical irritation of the airways by pepper spray," the placement of the mask over Iko's face and the way he was restrained. Medical experts for the state said Iko likely succumbed to cardiac arrest.

An Allegany County grand jury cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, but Iko's death remains under review by the FBI.

Nicole Fuller


Influx of BRAC funding foreseen

Turnover in Washington and Annapolis will mean more federal money for education and transportation to cope with the national military base realignment, members of Maryland's congressional delegation told Gov. Martin O'Malley yesterday.

Members of the Democrat-dominated delegation said they will take advantage of their party's rise in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate to funnel more homeland security money to Maryland to protect its sensitive assets and better prepare it for an attack in the Washington region.

Led by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the delegation met with O'Malley in the State House and told him that its members are well-positioned to follow his lead in preparing the state for the tens of thousands of jobs expected to come to Maryland in the next few years through the national base realignment and closure process, known as BRAC.

"It was determined that Maryland would play a more significant role in the defense of this country," Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said. "It's now the federal government's responsibility to help fund that."

O'Malley complained for years as mayor of Baltimore that the federal government wasn't doing enough to help the nation's cities prepare for terrorist attacks, but with his party completely out of power in Washington, his efforts had little effect.

But as governor in a time when Democrats control Congress, he is able to call on House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland, two members of appropriations committees - Mikulski in the Senate and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger in the House - and members of the committees that write transportation, tax and education policies.

The federal government provides impact assistance to help communities that get an influx of military personnel with the increased costs of education. But Mikulski said the amount has dwindled under President Bush and, in any case, the money is generally appropriated only after new residents arrive.

She said she wants to increase the appropriation to help with school construction as well as with the hiring of teachers and to allow Maryland to get the money in advance.

Andrew A. Green


Third day-laborer center sought

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is proposing a third day-laborer center in the county.

The plans call for the county-funded employment center near the Shady Grove Metro station, just south of Gaithersburg. A doublewide trailer would be placed on county-owned land in an industrial area near Shady Grove Road. The land is within walking distance of a Metro station and five bus routes but more than a half-mile from any residences.

The County Council does not need to approve Leggett's decision. But Leggett's plans will be reviewed next month by the Planning Board.

Finding a spot for the center for day laborers - mostly immigrants - has been problematic. Residents and business owners had protested several potential locations in Gaithersburg.

Associated Press

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