ACLU Case: We filed this suit because the ODRC is violating the First Amendment rights of the prisoners and of the press

From: Free Greg Curry: This is about the ACLU Media-access case from the ACLU Ohio website:

May 6, 2014
21 years after the Lucasville prison uprising, the media is still waiting for face-to-face interviews with the condemned prisoners.

For more than two decades, Siddique Hasan, Jason Robb, George Skatzes, Keith LaMar and Greg Curry have claimed they are innocent of the crimes attributed to them during the 1993 prison uprising at Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF).

Among other things, these five men accuse the state of coercing false testimony from other SOCF prisoners in order to convict them. They have spent years in solitary confinement, soliciting media attention in an attempt to convince the public—and ultimately the court system—that they do not belong where they are.

In response, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has completely banned face-to-face media contact with these men, arguing that they are too much of a security risk to be allowed to tell their stories in person.

In late 2013, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging this ban. The suit was filed on behalf of Hasan, Robb, Skatzes, LaMar and Curry, as well as one teacher and four reporters, including Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges.  

We filed this suit because the ODRC is violating the First Amendment rights of the prisoners and of the press. It’s not hard to see that their actions have very little to do with security and everything to do with silencing an uncomfortable conversation about the Lucasville uprising.

For proof, consider that many other death row inmates in Ohio have been granted face-to-face access to the media. They include spree killer John Fautenberry, neo-Nazi murderer Frank Spisak, and convicted arsonist Kenneth Richey, who has since been released from death row.

In all, Ohio prison officials have approved nearly two dozen media interviews with other death row inmates while denying each and every request for face-to-face interviews with the five Lucasville prisoners. This ban is a special form of extended vengeance, reserved only for them.

These prisoners are complicated characters, and the Lucasville uprising is a complex story.

Hiding these complexities behind a wall of censorship will not make them go away.
The Basics

21 years ago, on Easter Sunday 1993, more than 400 inmates at an overcrowded prison in Lucasville, Ohio staged an 11-day prison uprising. In the ensuing violence, nine inmates and one corrections officer lost their lives.

The Basics – read more here.

(clockwise from top left) Jason Robb, Siddique Hasan, Greg Curry and Keith LaMar are all incarcerated at Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio. Not pictured is George Skatzes, who is incarnated at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution (photo courtesy of Siddique Hasan and Greg Curry).


Artist Laurel Herbold’s imagined rendering of an actual legal meeting between prisoner Jason Robb, former ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman, prisoner Greg Curry, ACLU Volunteer Attorneys Alice and Staughton Lynd, prisoner Siddique Hasan, ACLU of Ohio Managing Attorney Freda Levenson and prisoner Keith LaMar.

Solidarity with prisoners in California from a supermax-prisoner in Ohio

This was sent to us as a call for solidarity and support for the California prisoners who are going on a hunger strike as of July 8th, by Greg Curry in Ohio, who has been held in the supermax since his false indictment and conviction following the Lucasville prison disturbance of 1993. Greg and others have had to resort to hunger strikes many times to fight for basic rights. 

7-1-13 For Distribution:

Why should a prisoner in Ohio or Minnesota, or New Mexico, support California prisoners as they move into a crucial stage of struggle for their just do?

My humble opinion is: how could any prisoner think that these apartheid-style policies being used in California won’t come knocking in Florida, WV, Illinois, or any prison system, at any given time? Remember California is said to be a liberal (in terms of political policy) state. How many conservative governors are envious of such harsh prison policies right now?!

I urge all of you in every prison and your able-bodied supporters (each of you can ask one of your friends, supporters outside who are in good health) to support this July 8th hunger strike in some form, but don’t wait till this kind of policy pays you a visit… 

Remember Lucasville 
Justiceforlucasvilleprisoners.wordpress.com

Greg Curry (Ohio State Penitentiary)

Gregcurry.org

Greg Curry #213-159
OSP
878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road,
Youngstown, OH 44505

Lucasville Media Access Hunger Strike Ends

May 6th, 2013
For Immediate Release to the Public

From: Siddique Abdullah Hasan and Gregory Curry:

Lucasville Media Access Hunger Strike Ends
[click on link to hear the voice version by Hasan]

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO– Today, at 3:15 p.m., Greg Curry and I, Siddique Abdullah Hasan, decided to end our almost month-long hunger strike. The strike commenced on April 11, the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville prison uprising. The sole purpose of our strike was to vigorously challenge the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) continuously denying us to have direct access to the media- that is: on-camera interviews with the media.

While both death-row and non-death row prisoners in Ohio are granted on-camera access to the media, those who have been reailroaded and convicted of crimes stemming from the Lucasville Uprising have continuously been denied equal protection under the law. 

And though ODRC policy permits its prisoners to meet with the media to discuss their criminal cases, this policy has not been applicable to those of of convicted of riot related offenses. In fact, in 2003, the then-prison chief, Reginald Wilkinson, made it perfectly clear to Kevin Mayhood a staff reporter at the Columbus Dispatch that: “no inmates convicted of riot crimes will be permitted to speak with [them].” This blanket and collective denial is contrary to ODRC’s own state-wide Media Policy, which Mr. Wilkinson’s successors have been unconstitutionally enforcing his vindictive directive. 

We want to thank all our supporters, as well as some reporters in the media, who have been agressively assisting us in challenging this unconstitutional media blockade.

We also want to thank the various organizations who have expressed interest in this matter– that is, the flagrant violation of our first amendment guarantees which protect freedom of speech and redress from government excesses.

Finally we want to thank Warden David Bobby for negotiating with us in good faith and for being the liaison between us and his hard-line superiors at Central Office.

Because of these factors, we decided to end our hunger strike and allow this crucial matter to be litigated through the court. God willing, we will be granted a resounding legal victory against the prisoncrats who wish to silence us in a deliberate ongoing attempt to prevent us from revealing the truth about our criminal convictions, convictions which are a serious affront and travesty of justice. Until then, I remain…

In the trenches,

Siddique Abdullah Hasan.
####

Greg Curry on Lucasville Uprising and 20th anniversary hunger strike demanding media access

From: SF Bay View, April 21, 2013

by Annabelle Parker

Greg recently on a visit behind glass

Greg Curry, 48, is a prisoner in the Ohio State Penitentiary, the supermax facility in that state, serving a life sentence following a major disturbance in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), in Lucasville, Ohio. This disturbance, known as the Lucasville Uprising, started 20 years ago, on April 11, 1993, after the warden, Arthur Tate, had instituted a very strict regime with no allowance for any discussion or negotiation of the rules, nor any respect for those in prison.

One of the important issues for Muslim prisoners was that the mandatory TB tests used alcohol (phenol) under the skin, which they refused. There was no discussion allowed with the warden to use alternative means of testing. This attitude of not listening to the serious concerns of a group of religious prisoners culminated in the uprising. For more information, see http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/p/background.html and https://justiceforlucasvilleprisoners.wordpress.com/.

This disturbance, known as the Lucasville Uprising, started 20 years ago, on April 11, 1993, after the warden, Arthur Tate, had instituted a very strict regime with no allowance for any discussion or negotiation of the rules, nor any respect for those in prison.

I’ve been in contact with the people who were convicted after the disturbance ended, and one big reason the story of Lucasville has to be told again and again is that not only did this tragic, desperate uprising lead to 10 deaths, but five men are still on death row and many more have been given lengthy sentences who declare their innocence.

After the uprising, informants were used to testify against other prisoners. In some cases, one prisoner would admit to having committed a murder, yet someone else would be found guilty of the same murder. Attorney and writer Staughton Lynd details this in seven essays he has written over the past year reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville Uprising.

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, designated the “ringleader” during his trial following the Lucasville Uprising and condemned to death, wrote: “One of the prosecutors, who is now a state judge, recently stated to a documentary filmmaker, ‘I don’t think that we will ever know who hands-on killed the Corrections Officer Vallandingham.’ This is not what he and other prosecutors told our juries. So yes, we are innocent men who are political prisoners.”

One big reason the story of Lucasville has to be told again and again is that not only did this tragic, desperate uprising lead to 10 deaths, but five men are still on death row and many more have been given lengthy sentences who declare their innocence.

Building a supermax appears to be the one thing politicians and prisoncrats wanted in the 1990s, and the Lucasville Uprising, which they call a riot, was all that was needed to get their way.

These innocent men have been treated more cruelly for the 20 years since the uprising than any other Ohio prisoners, and that injustice must be set right. More public and political outcry is badly needed. A general amnesty for all involved would be a graceful and just, albeit late, remedy for those who were wrongly convicted. Here is the story in short of Greg Curry, one of the prisoners who received a life sentence even though he had nothing to do with the uprising or the murders.

Greg Curry

Annabelle Parker: Greg, on the website Gregcurry.org and in a flyer you and your supporters have published, you wrote: “I was 29 years old. My interest was going home, sports, hustling and exercising, nothing more or less: no gangs, groups or religious affiliation, nothing to prove to my peers. Therefore, I had no serious disciplinary issues. My job was a recreation aide.”

So you were not with the Muslims or affiliated  with a prison gang?

Greg Curry: No, I was not part of any prison group or religion pre 1993. Most of the guys charged I had not even seen before.

A.P.: Greg, why did the prosecution or those investigating the riot turn to you? Do you have any clue? Did anyone mention your name?

G.C.: Most people knew me and Keith LaMar [now known as Bomani Shakur] was close friends, brothers even, so the assumption would be natural that we’re together or have each other’s back.

Some guys in LaMar’s block where these murders took place (apparently) blamed him and his friends, all in face mask by the way. So that started a process of founding “LaMar’s friends,” and once I was interviewed by the investigators, I was told “you or LaMar going to death row.”

I told them I didn’t know anything and have no reason to blame LaMar for anything either. Some guys – Lou Jones, Ant Walker, Donald Cassell – had previous problems with LaMar and evidence suggested that they would be charged for murders, so they needed to “perform” to get paroles and no charges on themselves.
Once LaMar’s “friends’” names were discovered, the investigators started giving these to their inmate conspirators (“snitches”) and those inmates repeated the lies. When you put most anyone up against anyone else, most people will save self; lying is only a minor detail.

I was given an opportunity to “save myself,” but I didn’t do anything or know anything worthy of needing saving from. How ironic that not knowing, not being involved, would put me at greater risk than had I committed a crime.

A.P.: This snitching by other inmates, this was encouraged by the prosecutors? Did the prisoners get anything out of snitching, which I gather means lying in court? Were they themselves involved maybe?

G.C.: Yes, the investigators that were state police and the prosecutors encouraged, created a narrative for the inmate conspirators (“snitches”) that wrapped up all loose ends and allowed different juries in different courts to convict different people for the exact same crime, so that four to five people individually are convicted for each murder.

Those snitches were then given parole or no charges. In Lou Jones’ case, he admitted being on this so-called “death squad,” yet he was not charged with anything and got a parole.

To clarify the commonly used term “snitching,” I prefer the inmate conspirators’ term. Yes, they helped get us divided, which in America is an easy task, and then the heavy burden of being poor, Black, male, convicted felon in a totally opposite rural community on trial makes you truly vulnerable to conviction.
Then, yes, these guys came to court to testify as well. As I said earlier, yes, these guys were the first to be accused, which is why the investigators paid them a visit. Once shown the evidence against them, they were given a “way out.”

I was given an opportunity to “save myself,” but I didn’t do anything or know anything worthy of needing saving from. How ironic that not knowing, not being involved, would put me at greater risk than had I committed a crime.


A.P.: You say on the website that deals are part of the law in Ohio but that the jurors have to know about the deals. In your case, the jurors clearly did not know, but the prosecution and the lying inmates did know about the fabrication of the case against you. In other words, they knew about a deal, but it was not disclosed in court? And the judge? Did he or she know?
What about Beckett v Haviland US App 6th cir?

G.C.: I believe the judge at trial, Stapleton, a retired judge, was in the blend to the deal between the prosecution and inmates. However, he became (at least) an unwilling accomplice when he stated, “By law if there were deals, they would have to be disclosed,” in response to my jurors’ inquiry, so that convinced my jury it was no deals when in fact it was, and the inmates and prosecutors covered it up. While my defense was based on my innocence and these inmates’ deals.

Beckett v. Haviland is just the latest in a long list of case law that clearly states this practice to be so out of bounds that the only remedy, and I quote: “The only remedy is a new trial.” (See http://gregcurry.weebly.com/gregs-case.html with attached document, Beckett v. Haviland).

Thus far the judicial system has hid behind “procedural” walls to deny me a court hearing. The courts claim it’s too late to seek justice! Can you believe that crap from a world leader in telling other countries what justice is?!

“The only remedy is a new trial.”

A.P.: What were you charged with and did you know those testifying against you? What happened to them?

G.C.: I was indicted for two aggravated murders, found guilty of one and guilty on the other of attempted aggravated murder. All those who testified against me received deals ranging from paroles to lower security to choice cellmates.

A.P.: Greg, it is 20 years now since that ordeal. What is the situation now of your case, and how can we support you?

G.C.: The courts are merely a reflection of a society that “don’t wanna know,” so until people become aware and demand mainstream media look into it and the media asks questions of lawyers and pastors and civil rights leaders, then it will be 20 years more.

Our fight at present is to make people aware, skeptic or not. Just look into it. Our supporters hold rallies and events that cost money so even if you can’t physically come out, help with money. Donations help. Email blast the websites. Get to know us. Just don’t ignore this anymore. It’s been 20 years.

A.P.: Is there anything else you need us to know right now?

G.C.: As of April 11, 2013, many of us are on a hunger strike to demand access to media to tell our stories. So pray for us. But prayer without deeds can’t please our God.

Freedom first,
Greg

Annabelle Parker, who lives in the Netherlands and dedicates her life to supporting prisoners in their struggles for freedom and justice, can be reached at freegregcurry@yahoo.com.

Send our brother some love and light: Greg Curry, 213-159, OSP, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505. His website, created and maintained by his supporters, is Gregcurry.org.

Support the hunger strikers

The situation is urgent. As of April 21, Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) had already lost 28 pounds!

To support the hunger strikers, call JoEllen Smith, head of the Office of Communications at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) central office, and demand that she and ODRC Director Gary Mohr grant media access for on-camera interviews with the Lucasville hunger striking prisoners. Her number is (614) 752-1159.

Tell the operator you do not want to talk to the warden, because you know that Director Mohr and Communications Director Smith are the actual decision-makers. Tell JoEllen Smith that you believe they are denying this access because they do not want the truth to come out about April of 1993.

Sign the online petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/ohio-department-of-rehabilitation-and-corrections-allow-on-camera-interviews-with-lucasville-uprising-prisoners#.

Learn more at http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/2013/04/20th-anniversary-hunger-strike-press.html.

AP: “3 Ohio Prison Riot Convicts Plan Hunger Strike”

Greg Curry, a prisoner at Ohiop State Penitentiary, doing a life sentence on false and wrongful grounds following the Lucasville prison uprising in 1993, told Ohio Prison Watch in a letter received today that he would be part of this hunger strike too:  

This comes from ABC / AP:

By Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press, COLUMBUS, Ohio April 10, 2013

Three of five Ohio inmates sentenced to death for a historic prison riot plan a hunger strike starting on the uprising’s 20th anniversary Thursday to protest the state’s refusal to allow them sit-down media interviews on their cases.

The state has had two decades to tell its side of the story and the inmates known as the Lucasville Five should have their chance, Siddique Abdullah Hasan said in an exclusive telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“We have been suffering very torturous conditions for two decades,” said Hasan, formerly Carlos Sanders. “We have never been given the opportunity completely to speak about our cases, to speak to the media — because the media has an enormous amount of power. They can get our message out to the court of public opinion.”

Twelve staff members were taken hostage on April 11, 1993, Easter Sunday, when inmates overtook the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Hasan was convicted for helping plan the murder of Corrections Officer Robert Vallandingham, among 10 who died during the 11-day uprising, the longest deadly prison riot in U.S. history. Hasan denies he was involved in planning or carrying out the killing.

Hasan, Keith LaMar and Jason Robb, all sentenced to death after the uprising, will take their last meals Wednesday evening ahead of their protest at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Hasan said. Also participating will be Gregory Curry, a participant in the rebellion sentenced to life in prison.

James Were, another of the Lucasville Five, is diabetic and will not take part. The fifth man sentenced to death after the riot, George Skatzes, is at a different prison in Chillicothe.