Thursday, March 10, 2005

The trial of the civil suit filed by former prisoner Oscar Alvarez against former Newton County Sheriff Ron Doerge is expected to begin in early 2006 and last three days, according to a scheduling motion filed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.
Any motion to add additional parties to the suit or amend the petition must be filed no later than June 1. Discovery will need to be completed on or before Oct. 1.
The deadline for motions is Nov. 1. Alvarez' attorney, Steven J. Blair of Hall, Ansley, Rodgers and Condry, Springfield, must designate any expert witnesses by Sept. 1.
Alvarez claims he was beaten by two prisoners who were allowed in to his cell by a pair of guards who looked the other way.
As revealed earlier in The Turner Report, the Alvarez lawsuit puts Doerge in a precarious position. In order to defend himself effectively, Doerge may have to say that Alvarez is not telling the truth and that Doerge jumped the gun by firing jailers Adam Brandon Babbitt and Shane Steven Smith for their alleged roles in Alvarez' beating.
Doerge apparently ignored evidence that Babbitt and Smith may have been set up by Alvarez and another prisoner.
Alvarez claims that on Feb. 22, 2004, jailers Babbitt and Smith arranged for his beating. Doerge told Joplin Globe reporter Dena Sloan in March 2004 that his investigation had determined that the cameras trained on Alvarez' cell had been turned off for a few minutes so the cell door could be opened and two prisoners let in, one to stand watch and the other to beat up Alvarez. Another prisoner also received a less serious beating in the incident.
In his response to Alvarez' lawsuit, Doerge claims to be "without adequate knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the factual allegations." The felony charges against Smith and Babbitt in connection with the case were amended to misdemeanors in exchange for their Alford plea. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not actually plead guilty, but admits there was enough evidence to convict if the case had gone to trial.
Smith and Babbitt were never told that the Sheriff's Department had evidence that could have either cleared them or at the least created reasonable doubt. This evidence included an affidavit signed by another Cell Block A inmate saying Alvarez and another inmate had concocted a plan to have Alvarez beaten to prevent Alvarez from being deported.
At the time, Alvarez was facing a felony charge of non-support which, if he had been convicted, would have been enough to have forced him to leave the United States.
One day before Doerge gave the interview to Ms. Sloan of the Globe, the charge against Alvarez was amended to a misdemeanor, enabling him to stay in this country. The sheriff also apparently only accepted the word of four inmates, including Alvarez and the man who beat him that the cameras were turned off, although there was no other evidence that that was what had happened and each of the men had something to gain by telling the story.The man who admitted to beating Alvarez and the other inmate had already been convicted, but was waiting in line for a trip to the Department of Corrections, where he would have considerably more freedom than he had at the Newton County Jail. Alvarez' hearing, the one which would have almost directly led to his deportation, was scheduled for later that week. His cellmate, who also claimed he was beaten, was looking for special favors from the sheriff, ones which had been denied right up until the time of the alleged beating, but then were suddenly granted.
No evidence ever existed, other than the inmates' story that anyone ever actually entered their cell. The videotape system used in the Newton County Jail had numerous incidents of the picture fading in and out... incidents which happened on a regular basis anyway because of the use of the same videocassettes over and over again. The time stamp on the machine never showed that it had been shut off at any point.
After Smith and Babbitt were fired, another inmate in the cellblock signed an affidavit saying he had heard Alvarez and his cellmate come up with the plan. When they entered their Alford pleas, the two jailers had no idea the affidavit existed.Both men, indicating they felt they had been railroaded by the sheriff, later filed lawsuits against him in Newton County Circuit Court. Both cases were later dismissed.
If Doerge is to win his lawsuit, he may have to show that his former deputies were not responsible for Alvarez' alleged beating. If that happens, Doerge has set himself up for another lawsuit from Smith and Babbitt, who have reportedly already been talking to lawyers.
The Saga stations, KOAM and KFJX broke the story that drunk driver Edward Meerwald will plead guilty in Newton County Circuit Court Friday to involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the July 31, 2004, death of Jim Dodson, 69, Neosho, and his seven-year-old granddaughter Jessica Mann. The two were killed after Meerwald's car left the highway and hit them in Dodson's driveway.
The stations received their information from the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney's office, even though I didn't hear any mention of what kind of a plea agreement, if any, has been reached. Almost assuredly, Meerwald, 51, Noel, will not be entering a guilty plea unless some kind of concession was made, unless, of course, he realizes that no jury is going to fell sympathy for a man who killed an older man and a little girl while driving drunk.
The Lamar Democrat reports that Golden City Elementary Principal Susan Whittle has been promoted to superintendent. Golden City's former superintendent Charles Brazeale has taken a position as assistant superintendent in the Neosho R-5 School District.
*** reports that Lockwood High School graduate Whitney Scott, who competed well, but ultimately unsuccessfully last year on ESPN's Dream Job program, has landed a job in sports broadcasting. Miss Scott has a Saturday morning show on Springfield's Jock 98.7.
The Monett Board of Education accepted the resignation of high school band director Craig Smith at its February meeting, according to today's Monett Times. Smith, a Joplin resident and former band director at Lamar High School, has been on a leave of absence since last month with school officials revealing no details about the reason why. If you have any information about this, drop me an e-mail at
Monett High School Principal David Steward, another former Lamar High School teacher, announced at that board meeting that the school would no longer show Channel One, the news program for students after this year. The time will be used to extend the other classes. Channel One supplies televisions to schools in exchange for the schools running the program, but it has come under criticism for showing advertisement to a captive student audience.
Shaky accounting practices are under investigation at Echostar, according to Bloomberg News. The company's audit committee is reportedly looking at dealings with suppliers and "suspect consulting payments to a friend of the company's CEO Charlie Ergen.
The investigation will likely lead to a delay of the filing of the company's annual report with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Bloomberg News.
Multichannel News reports that Echostar dropped almost eight percent, $2.39 per share after the Bloomberg report was published.
That wasn't the only bad news Echostar received, according to Multichannel News. A patent-infringement lawsuit brought by TiVo against Echostar will go to trial, a judge with the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas said Wednesday. TiVo officials claim Echostar is violating a patent issued to TiVo in May 2001 which features "a way to record one program while playing back another, a method for watching a show as it is recording; and a storage format that supports capabilities such as pausing live television, fast-forwarding, rewinding, instant replays, and slow motion."
Jury selection for the trial is set to begin Oct. 4, according to Multichannel News.
Crain's Chicago Business reports that McDonald's is considering outsourcing its drive-through services. The company is considering having drive through orders taken outside of the local restaurants by people who deal better with customers and who will get orders right.

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