This article on the trial of five prison escapees raises the issue of whether a contraband prison cell phone can be considered dangerous contraband. Certainly a smuggled cell phone can be used to plan crimes or harass witnesses, but is the contraband cell phone, in and off itself, dangerous? The defense attorney states, “a cell phone, something that you give your children, something that our middle schools are filled with, is not in it of itself dangerous, even in the confines of the county jail.” While the prosecutor states that, “the circumstances in which the phone was used makes it dangerous.” Either way, prison officials need a more effective means to reduce the contraband value of smuggled cell phones in prisons.
The five men charged in connection with the March 31st Monroe County Jail break were back in court for pretrial hearings Thursday.
Attorneys for accused jail escapees Joseph Mitchell and Eddie Palmer raised questions about the legality of using recorded phone calls from jail as evidence at trial.
They also asked Judge James Piampiano to consider whether law enforcement officers acted outside the scope of signed warrants while conducting and seizing their clients’ property.
Inmate James Thomas is charged with felony possessing dangerous contraband.
Local lawyer Rudolf LePore is charged with felony introducing dangerous contraband. The charges specifically relate to a cell phone and charger that were brought into the jail and used by the escapees.
It is still unclear who provided the escapees with the saw blades.
Thomas and LePore’s attorneys argued the cell phone should not be considered dangerous.
“We’re saying that a cell phone, something that you give your children, something that our middle schools are filled with, is not in it of itself dangerous, even in the confines of the county jail. And secondly, we think there’s a constitutional question about that, that there’s no notice out there for anyone. Again, everybody would know that you can’t bring a knife into a jail, but a cell phone, being the same level of offense as a knife that’s a step removed under the law and its our position that this should be reduced to a misdemeanor,” LePore’s attorney Peter Pullano said.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Schwartz disagreed. He the circumstances in which the phone was used makes it dangerous.
The fifth defendant in this case, Mathias Smith, also appeared in court Thursday. He is charged with hindering the prosecution by allegedly sheltering Mitchell and Palmer in Sodus while they we on the run.
All five defendants are scheduled to be back in court at the end of the month for Judge Piampiano’s decisions on the issues raised.