The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

January 29, 2014

Northumberland County Prison guard's conduct under scrutiny

Inmate wins early release after complaint

SUNBURY — A Sunbury woman, a single mother, who was serving nine to 23 months in jail for her part in a city cocaine ring, was released five months early in September after a judge and the district attorney investigated and validated her claims of violence at the hands of a Northumberland County Prison guard.

Northumberland County President Judge Robert Sacavage released Stephanie Olin, 29, to the county re-entry program after Olin complained that a female guard had been harassing her.

County Commissioner Vinny Clausi, who has been a vocal critic of the prison’s administration, provided documents that showed Sunbury police were notified of the incident, but were not involved in the decision to release Olin.

Olin’s attorney in May of 2013 sent letters to the Sunbury Police Department and Northumberland County District Attorney Tony Rosini explaining the situation.

Sunbury police spoke with Rosini who then asked Sacavage to send adult probation officers to investigate the claims.

After an investigation was completed, the probation officers found Olin’s claims credible. Sacavage released Olin to her home to finish out her sentence. But allegations of an assault on a prisoner went no further.

Sunbury police called Stonington state police who declined to investigate. Sunbury police also declined to because the department does not investigate prison incidents.

Sunbury police said in a report that the county needs a detective.

“I had made complaints about the guard and then this happened to me,” Olin said Tuesday.

“All of a sudden one day adult probation came to the jail and took me to their office. They interviewed me and made me wait at the office and the next thing I knew they came back with my release papers signed by the judge.”

Olin declined to say any more about the case but said she has been to several doctors since the alleged incident occurred.

Olin, still in the re-entry program, subsequently contacted Sunbury attorneys Kymberley Best and Tim Bowers.

Best and Bowers immediately sent a letter to the governing prison board and county commissioners demanding the female guard be fired or face a lawsuit in federal court.

“I believe the whole board needs to look at this,” Commissioner Vinny Clausi said. “We cannot afford to go to federal court and waste money. You can’t deny the police report. It shows clearly that something happened to that girl, and for a judge and a district attorney to get together and release her from jail shows they believed her.”

Clausi said with the recent problems at the prison and several lawsuits filed against the county, jail and staff, he is asking attorneys Best and Bowers to give the county time to research the issue further. “We have a $100,000 deductible to pay up front for these lawsuits. We cannot afford all these lawsuits. I have been taking about this prison for a long time and we need to do what’s right for the taxpayers. If the prison did something wrong, then we are responsible. If they didn’t, then we will fight it.”

Bowers is pleased the county is looking into the matter.

“I am glad to see a county official acknowledges that the prison has a responsibility to protect prisoners,” he said.

Best added: “This matter is merely one example of the extensive problems within the walls of our prison.”

Olin pleaded guilty to having more than 35 grams of cocaine in her possession during a Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force raid in May 2011.

Olin appeared before Sacavage and after debate on whether Olin would be handled through drug treatment court instead of getting jail time, Sacavage ordered the nine- to 23-month sentence.

In 2011, task force members converged on Olin’s home and sat at the kitchen table, where Olin admitted to selling cocaine for several months.

Olin was selling the drugs to Keith Krieger, 33, of Northumberland, according to court documents. Krieger also was arrested as part of the 17-month investigation that led police to Robert Reichner, of Northumberland. Reichner was traveling to Baltimore to purchase cocaine to distribute throughout the Valley, police said.

Olin showed police where she stashed more than $1,000 and several hundred baggies of cocaine, police said.

Olin’s attorney, John McLaughlin, of Danville, asked Sacavage to go easy on Olin because she was “romanced.”

“My client was introduced to cocaine and then began selling cocaine,” he said. “This case bothers me a lot.”

Sacavage listened as Assistant District Attorney Michael Toomey said the mandatory sentence in the case could be 12 to 24 months in a state prison, but he agreed to the lower range of sentencing because Olin had stayed clear of trouble since her arrest.

Rosini did not return an email seeking comment.

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

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