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$1.2-million spent to get prison transfers

$1.2-million spent to get prison transfers
By MEG LAUGHLIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007


In June, a convicted murderer called his lawyer from prison to make
sure that his transfer to a new prison would meet his expectations.

John Freund, a former Palm Beach oncologist who in 1984 stabbed a man
to death at a party when injections didn’t kill him, told attorney
Bernard Daley that he wanted his prison lover transferred with him, his
"extra property" and "a low bunk, a cotton blanket, a straw hat and
medical passes."

"I’ll certainly do it for you," Daley told him.

The conversation, which was taped and turned over to the chief of the
Florida Department of Corrections, spawned a full-scale investigation
into improper prison transfers and resulted in the demotion and firing
of several prison administrators.

Now, five months later, the results of the investigation show that
prison transfers were big business. In the past year, two lawyers and
two retired prison consultants shared fees from inmates’ families
totaling close to $1.2-million for helping 371 Florida inmates jump the
line and get transferred ahead of thousands of others.

The bulk of the money, the investigation showed, went to Daley, who received $7,500 from Freund for one transfer alone.

"It wasn’t as sinister as it sounds," says Daley. "I was trying to
assuage John in that conversation. I didn’t really know what I could
accomplish."

In Freund’s case, the 57-year-old doctor jumped the line in March –
with Daley’s help – to get to an air-conditioned prison in South
Florida. Freund’s justification for the transfer was that he needed to
take a beginning computer class there. But officials later determined  
that he shouldn’t have been moved for that reason.

In June, after several phone calls tipped authorities off that Freund
was paying Daley to help him bypass the rules, Freund was transferred
by the department to a prison in the northern part of the state. It was
in transit that he made the phone call to Daley telling him to make
sure he landed in "the comfort zone."

‘Prison consultants’

While Daley and Freund dealt directly with each other, most of the
transfers were arranged by prison consultants, who got a cut of the
lawyers’ fees. These consultants persuaded employees in the prison
system to push inmates to the front of the line, often ignoring  
obstacles that made them ineligible for transfer.

The investigation did not show that Corrections Department employees received any money for their part in the scheme.

To send a message that the unethical transfers must stop, the
department took a number of steps, including removing 74 inmates from
the institutions where they had paid to go.

Among them was Ken Langford of Naples, who is finishing a two-year
sentence for a fourth DUI. His wife, Donna Langford, said she paid
Daley $4,500 for a transfer to a work-release program, after being
assured that it was legal and accepted policy. But her husband was  
recently transferred back to a harsher prison because, guards told him,
he had not participated in the substance abuse programs needed to apply
for work-release.

"It was up to Daley and his consultant to know the rules and not take
our money," Langford said. "I’m filing a bar complaint against him."

Daley said that he had received a "lot of calls from irate families of
inmates" who have accused him of wrongly taking their money for
transfers that have been reversed.

"It’s not my fault that corrections is suddenly taking a different view of a practice allowed for years," he said.

But Jim McDonough, chief of the Corrections Department, strongly
disagrees: "It infuriates me that people are making big money to
pre-empt the system."

Daley says to assuage the inmates whose money he took, he has hired a team of young lawyers to offer them free services.

‘Sending a message’

Besides the 74 transfer revocations, the department has taken other
measures to send a message that the unethical transfers must stop:
Daley and his prison consultant, Ron Jones, received scathing letters
from the department’s general counsel reprimanding them for "misconduct
contrary to concepts of honesty and justice" and forbidding them any  contact with department personnel.

Because he requested transfers after getting paid, prison consultant
Louis Wainwright, who was chief of the Corrections Department for 24
years, has been denied unimpeded access to the corrections central
office in Tallahassee and must now sign in and have an escort.

"I defer to Secretary McDonough and accept whatever he decides," Wainwright told the Times several weeks ago.

One top prison administrator, David Tune, was fired, and two others,
Rusty McLaughlin and John Becker, were demoted for a "failure of
leadership."

"We are not doing any of these things to be mean," McDonough said. "We are doing them to be fair."

The investigation did not result in any criminal charges, and inmates
who were transferred back can apply for transfers through the proper
channels. But they will have to wait behind thousands of inmates who
followed department rules.

Meg Laughlin can be reached at mlaughlin@sptimes.com.

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