Edward Heath Williamson, 33, of 10 Johnia Court, is facing two counts of a sexual act between a teacher and a student for an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old female. Williamson, THS’ Instructional Technological Facilitator, is accused of having sexual intercourse with the female, who is one of his students, on two separate occasions while on school grounds. Williamson has been suspended with pay until an investigation is completed.
“We were told about some improprieties and we investigated and found there was some truth to it,” THS Principal Deboy Beamon said. “He broke a sacred code and you just don’t do that.”
According to Det. Jeff McCrary, Thomasville Police Department received notification by the THS school resource officer last Wednesday that a teacher was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female student. An investigation alleges that Williamson and the female had two separate sexual encounters on Dec. 16 and Jan. 15. Since the female student is at least 16 years old, no statutory charges have been filed.
“This is a class G felony,” said McCrary. “This crime was put in place specifically for teacher-student relationships. Age has nothing to do with it. Teachers are not allowed to have sexual relationships with students they’re teaching.”
Williamson turned himself into TPD on Friday and was issued a $10,000 unsecured bond. He is scheduled to appear in Thomasville District Court on Feb. 12.
“There have been accusations about an inappropriate relationship with a student,” Thomasville City Schools Superintendent Keith Tobin said. “It’s under investigation at this point. Concerning the accusation of a student and a teacher, there was immediate action taken to take care of that situation.”
Tobin didn’t want to comment on whether Williamson would be terminated, but did say that “I can assure you that the situation will be handled appropriately and in a timely manner. It is a personnel matter and I can’t comment any more than that.”
Williamson could not be reached for comment by press time Monday.
Now in his second year at THS, Wiliamson also is an assistant coach with the varsity football team. Williamson came to THS from Randolph County and was responsible for helping students develop senior projects.
Sharlett Villareal, 37, was taken into custody on suspicion of grand theft. She was booked into the Tulare County Main Jail.
Police said officers responded to Lowe’s of Tulare, 1145 East Prosperity Ave., for reports of embezzling.
Tulare Police Sgt. Darron Altermatt said the store’s security officers reported the employee had marked refunding returned items when there weren’t any and keeping the money.
Altermatt said such instance had going on for about a month, from Dec. 20 to Jan. 18, totaling $1,300.
The arrest was recorded at 10:46 a.m. Friday.
Connecticut could join at least a dozen other states by restricting prison inmates from using FOI laws to get personal information to harass or threaten their guards – and, in some cases, prosecutors or other inmates.
Inmates here and around the country have swamped systems with information requests – for guards’ personnel and arrest records, files affecting the inmates’ own legal cases, and details as mundane as meal ingredients. While no Connecticut correction officers have been harmed or harassed because no personnel records have yet been released, prison officials say they are fighting because they view such requests as a threat to the safety and security of staff and at the prisons.
From his cell in a Suffield prison, where he’s serving out an 86-year sentence for sexual assault, Richard Stevenson is trying to learn more about his guards. He’s battled Connecticut’s Department of Correction for the past year, seeking off-duty arrest records of more than 100 guards.
Stevenson, 45, contends he wants the information for a court appeal and a Freedom of Information Commission officer initially okayed his request – but prison officials want it blocked. They claim it will endanger the officers by giving an inmate juicy information he could use against a guard to his advantage.
“When an inmate is requesting information, it’s not for anybody’s good, especially when they’re lifers, for vicious assaults or whatever,” said Jon Pepe, president of AFSCME Local 391, one several union locals representing correctional officers in Connecticut. “These are not good people.”
Washington, Arkansas, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey, Texas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia and Arizona have various laws on the books, some dating back to the mid-1990s, that limit or block inmate access to state open-record laws, according to prison union officials.
None were apparently prompted by violence against guards; most – like Georgia’s, Michigan’s and Texas’ – complained about the harassment potential and the cost and burden of compliance.
In Washington, a law enacted last year followed threats against several prosecutors by an inmate, Allan Parmelee, who is serving 17 years for firebombing his lawyers’ cars. Parmelee had made hundreds of requests for photos, surveillance video or personnel files on judges, prosecutors, prison guards and others he’s encountered in his legal case.
The personnel records requested by prisoners in Connecticut have not yet reached the inmates because of the legal challenges made by the prisons department. However, correction officials point to a recent disturbance after one inmate learned from a local police report he requested under the open records law that another inmate had been an informant.
Connecticut’s full FOI commission recently ruled to release records Stevenson wants, but with the guards’ names redacted. DOC has not yet decided whether to comply.
This case and several others, which pit the prisons department against the FOI Commission, are fueling a renewed push to change state law and curb rising inmate FOI requests for personnel records.
Prison officials say they worry about the possibility inmates could threaten and compromise an officer by telling other inmates about a potentially embarrassing arrest – and that sensitive personal information about staff, such as home addresses and names of family members, could get into the wrong hands.
While there are exemptions in Connecticut’s FOI Act to withhold public employees’ personnel and health records, they’re not airtight. It must be proven that the information would highly offend a reasonable person, and that there’s no public interest in it.
Colleen Murphy, executive director of the state’s FOI commission, said the panel opposes an across-the-board ban on releasing such records to inmates. There are situations, she said, where the information could benefit the inmate and possibly the state as a whole.
“They are uniquely situated to see if there is any wrongdoing going on in the other side of the fence,” Murphy said.
Correction officials claim inmate FOIs are jamming the system, but the FOI commission – which aims to treat inmates as other citizens – disagrees. It says it has seen an increase in its workload, of which inmates’ requests are only about 20 percent and manageable. A significant portion of the requests seek information about inmates’ guards, officials say.
Paul Wright, editor of the Seattle-based Prison Legal News, said Connecticut’s proposed limits are part of “a national clampdown” to isolate prisoners from the outside world.
He questioned whether guard protection is the real issue, since an inmate – or someone acting for him – can already glean information like arrest records from the Internet and newspapers. He suggests prisons officials are really trying to block information that would disclose poor prison conditions.
“This isn’t occurring in a vacuum. It’s kind of a full-court press,” Wright said. “They don’t want to give up the information. They know if they give up the information, it basically gives insight into how poorly run their institutions are.”
Wright knows firsthand the information that an inmate can uncover using open records laws. While serving 17 years of a 25-year term in Washington State for killing a cocaine dealer he was trying to rob, Wright requested documents on all of the doctors working for the state’s prison system.
He learned that some didn’t have medical licenses and many had been disciplined for medical neglect.
“For the most part, the pattern here wasn’t this is Marcus Welby and we have some issues,” said Wright, who moved to Vermont after his release from prison in 2003. “These are crappy doctors.”
In Florida, where FOI laws are among the nation’s strongest, inmates are allowed equal access to public records under the state’s constitution.
“To limit any access to any party or designated group – I don’t think it would fly here in Florida,” said JoAnn Carrin, director of the Office of Open Government.
Kansas Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell said his agency has considered banning inmates’ access to information about staff – but questions whether it’s workable.
“If the inmate can’t get it,” he said, “the inmate will have somebody on the outside write in and say, ‘Please send me the information about this staff member or that staff member.”
By: Rick McCann/Staff
PRIVATE OFFICER NEWS
Authorities responded to a shooting of a correctional officer at the Pasquotank Correctional Institution Monday morning and found the officer outside the fence line.
Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright said Officer Malikka Smith, 26, is believed to have shot herself with her prison-issued service weapon sometime before 8 a.m. on Monday.
Correction personnel became concerned after Smith failed to answer radio calls at 8 a.m. and went to investigate. They discovered her slumped in her patrol vehicle, Cartwright said.
Cartwright, whose office is investigating Smith’s death, said the officer started her shift at the prison at 6 a.m. Smith’s job was to patrol a road outside the prison’s fence line checking for security breaches.
Cartwright said Smith’s death is being investigated as a suicide.
“It doesn’t seem to be any foul play,” he said.
The sheriff’s office is questioning Smith’s co-workers and other prison employees as part of its investigation. Cartwright’s office is looking into several possible reasons for Smith’s actions, but the sheriff said he was not prepared to comment on them.
“We’re looking into some possible reasons, yes, but nothing that we can release right now,” he said.
Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction, said his agency had no information on why Smith would want to take her own life. He said DOC will look into the matter to determine what lead to Smith’s death and whether her work duties played any role.
Acree said Smith had worked for DOC since August 2004. He was not sure if Smith had worked at any other prisons besides Pasquotank Correctional Institution.
Cartwright said he couldn’t remember a recent incident in which an on-duty officer committed suicide.
Allegedly, Poole also possessed a stolen laptop computer power pack.
He’s the priest for St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Christopher and St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sesser.
By: Brett Davis/ Staff
PRIVATE OFFICER NEWS
Police have made an arrest in an unusual theft at a store in last year.
Canton Police say that they have captured Ronald Mark Clark of Woodstock GA. and have charged with several felony crimes.
During his arrest, police found two stolen 19-inch, Polaroid flat-screens and the uniform Clark wore during the Nov. 17 theft, police said.
TV viewers helped police identify Clark after a Dec. 31 broadcast about the incident, police said.
Clark was charged with theft by shoplifting and taken to the Cherokee County Jail.
Allen Scott Harris, 40, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and two counts of communications fraud, both second-degree felonies. An additional six felonies were dismissed as part of a plea deal. He faces a sentence of one to 15 years in prison for each charge when he is sentenced March 11.
Judge James Taylor advised Harris of his rights and reminded him that he has the discretion on Harris’s sentence and could choose to run the sentences on each charge consecutively.
“It could effectively be four to 60,” Taylor said.
Prosecutor Craig Johnson said one theft charge is associated with stealing laptop computers, and the other stems from the theft of toner cartridges. The communications fraud charges resulted from communication with the buyers of the stolen items. Johnson said as part of Harris’s job at BYU Broadcasting, he bought laptops to give to employees between June 2008 and February 2009.
“Instead of turning those over to those people, he sold them on eBay and other sites,” he said.
Harris pocketed the money from the sales for himself and did so again when he sold the toner cartridges, Johnson said. In all, nearly 50 laptops, 80 computer monitors and 175 printer cartridges were bought with university money and sold for Harris’s gain.
“We have a stipulated amount of $200,000 of embezzlement,” Johnson told Judge Taylor.
BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said previously that Harris had an administrative role in the computer support department for BYU Broadcasting. He worked for the university from September 2002 until he resigned in February 2009.
Jenkins said there were concerns from employees about Harris’s activity, and the thefts were discovered during a routine internal audit.
Johnson said Harris and his attorney approached the case professionally and cooperated to determine to extent of the damages and come to a resolution. Both sides had several meetings with BYU to go through records and determine the losses.
Attorneys set Harris’s court hearing far apart because it was anticipated that a lot of legwork would need to be done in the case, Johnson said. There were large amounts of paperwork to go through and serial numbers that had to be tracked to find the computers.
“This was a large accounting project,” he said.
Although $200,000 was lost by the university, Johnson said Harris pocketed less himself because he sold the computers at reduced prices. Harris has agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution, as the stolen merchandise will likely not be found.
“Most of them were not recovered,” Johnson said. “They are throughout the 50 states.”
Johnson said it was important to recover the money for the university because the loss is felt throughout the valley. Many residents support the university either through money to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, through tuition money or through other avenues.
“Just about everyone in Utah County is a victim in some way,” he said.