After hearing complaints from an accused cop killer about his jail conditions, a Brooklyn federal judge yesterday asked Bureau of Prison officials to speed up a review of why the inmate is being held in solitary confinement.
Lawyers for Ronell Wilson, 23, said he has been held in solitary since his arrest and indictment in November 2004 for the Staten Island slayings of undercover officers James Nemorin and Rodney J. Andrews in a gun bust gone bad.
At the Metropolitan Detention Center in Red Hook, Wilson is kept in his cell 23 hours a day and is restricted to one social telephone call a month. He is allowed unlimited visits with his lawyers.
But defense attorneys Kelley Sharkey and Efraim Savitt said Wilson has been unable to get detailed information about why he is being kept in solitary for what looks like an unlimited duration. They said he has appealed the center's decision to keep him in solitary but that his paper work was lost. The lawyers wanted Judge Nicholas Garaufis to short circuit the Bureau of Prisons' administrative appeal process.
The attorneys told Garaufis that Wilson's status as a pretrial detainee in solitary confinement is hampering their ability to adequately represent him since they spend much of their time listening to his complaints about his detention.
Adding to the problem, Savitt noted, was that Wilson faces a potential death penalty and the attorneys need the ability to communicate and interact with him "so he can think clearly." Savitt said he visited Department of
Justice officials on Monday to make a presentation on why he thought the death penalty should not be sought. Officials have not made a decision on that aspect of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Kavanaugh said that Wilson is in solitary because of the nature of the charges against him and the fact that he had a record of numerous infractions while he was held in Rikers Island for various offenses. She said Wilson had to pursue his administrative remedies with detention center officials and asked Garaufis not to rule on the propriety of Wilson's solitary confinement.
Kavanaugh also noted that Wilson had two allegations of infractions against him while he has been at the center. Savitt said the allegations didn't involve violence.
Garaufis, who earlier this year ordered the release from solitary of reputed Bonanno acting boss Vincent Basciano, said he did not want to second guess the detention center on Wilson's case. But he asked prison officials to "expedite" their decision about whether Wilson is being properly held in the harsher conditions.