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Stop the hate - No more excuses!

 

To: Mark Barnett, Attorney General
Pierre, South Dakota
Re: Leighton Rich

Dear Mr. Barnett,
Recently I sent a letter to Gov. Janklow urging him to investigate the circumstance leading up to the recent suicide of Leighton Rich. Now I am asking the Attorney General's Office to open a criminal investigation surrounding the treatment Mr. Rich was subjected to prior to his suicide.

I am urging your office to open a criminal investigation on the statutory grounds of SDCL24-2-10 (1) "Unauthorized injury to inmate-punishment.

On the morning of Saturday March 17,2001, I talked briefly with D.C.I Jim Severson. After that I asked him if there was going to be a follow up because I wanted a record of my statement. I told him that I would be writing to Gov. Janklow. Agent Severson told me and my room-mate Pius Smashed Ice, that a agent would come and talk to us on Monday (March 19,2001). As of today March 21,2001, we've yet to talk with a D.C.I. Incidentally, I view such disregard for our statement for the record as interference, as obstruction of justice.

Following is my statement about the treatment that Mr. Rich was subjected to before committing suicide. "Leighton Rich was experiencing mental or psychological problems. That was evident and obvious. He was exhibiting that behavior even before I talked to the head psychologist and Unit A case manager on March 13, 2001. I stated to them that Leighton Rich shouldn't be housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad. Seg.) They were moderate about it and agreed. I told them he was just languishing in that cell (no TV, radio), he didn't keep clean and his room wasn't clean and sanitary. Of course that should have been obvious to the section floor correctional officers (C.O.) during daily walk through.

During our recreation period on March 14, 2001, Mr. Rich asked me to move in. Before our rec. was over I was able to talk with the unit counselor Misty Waagmerstr and have her notify Unit Manager Gary Taylor that I wanted to move in with Mr. Rich because he asked me to. She did notify him. Not long after I had locked up from rec., my cell was opened and I was called to the section's door slider, there I talked with Mr. Taylor. I told him Rich asked me to move in with him. I explained that Mr. Rich was having problems. I told him that Mr. Rich needed someone to talk to and keep busy. He needed his house cleaned. Mr. Taylor asked me if I got along with him. I told him I did and that I knew his family. Mr. Taylor appeared to favor allowing me to move in with him. I offered to write a kite requesting a move. He told me to send the kite. I did, as well as have Mr. Rich sign a request slip allowing me to move in. Subsequently, Mr. Taylor told me he would look into my moving, but he left me with the impression that it would happen. He has the authority to grant such transfers as a Unit Manager.

On March 16, 2001, while on my way to visit, I was able to talk with Unit A Manager G. Taylor. I asked him if I was going to be able to move in with Rich. He told I would not be moving in today, which surprised me. So being inquisitive I stated that it would be next week? He said it would probably be Saturday or Sunday. (Cell transfers are not normally conducted on weekends unless it's a emergency.) So after hearing that, I started on my way to visit, but at the same time I told Mr. Taylor I would let Mr. Rich know because he was expecting me to move in today. I walked a few feet and turned around and happen to see Warden Weber had appeared from somewhere.

Regarding cell transfers there was an approved cell transfer that day. It was between section 3 and section 4. That type of transfer was allowed, but Unit Manager G. Taylor couldn't allow me to move in with Mr. Rich whom was living next door to me. So that is how Mr. Rich was treated. From March 13, 2001, through March 16, 2001, no attempt was made to have the mental health staff talk and evaluate Mr. Rich. No sensible and professional judgment was exercised at different levels.

If Mr. Rich's death isn't an injury under SDCL 24-2-10 I don't know what is, but the fact of the matter is that it was a fatal injury. As such, the circumstances and SDSP/Jameson Annex administrative responsibility must be investigated on the basis that Mr. Rich was never sentenced nor convicted. It was reckless negligence underlying the administrative decision -making that denial Mr. Rich the protections accorded him under the laws of not only the state statues and constitution but also U.S. Constitution. Such treatment that Mr. Rich was subjected to is not authorized by law and therefore warrants a criminal investigation.

In conclusion I stand ready to be a witness for Leighton Rich and how he was treated. Thank You.

Elroy Wabasha #24626

1 SDCL24-2-10. Unauthorized injury to inmate -- Punishment. Any person sentenced to imprisonment in the state penitentiary is under the protection of the law, and any injury to him not authorized by law is punishable in the same manner as if he were not convicted or sentenced.

 

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" In Remembrance "
Sept 11, 2001
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