March 15, 2006

Friend's don't let friend's drink and stay in jail for D.W.I. convictions

A judge has ruled that a county employee, who was serving time in the Union County Jail for a third D.W.I. conviction, was let out of jail improperly by the warden who reports directly to the freeholders. Thomas MacDermant was allowed to leave jail on a wristlet without the permission of his sentencing judge. The New Jersey Law Journal reported this on Monday, March 13 2006.

MacDermant was sentenced to a mandatory 180 days in the Union County jail by Judge Jones out of the Roselle Municipal Court. The Judge received an anonymous letter informing her of MacDermant’s freedom. She then had him rearrested, sent back to jail and, as usual, the taxpayers are now picking up the legal fees stemming from the county’s mismanagement and corruption.

When Senator Raymond Lesniak’s nephew, George Devanney, was appointed County Manager by the all-Democrat freeholder board in 2002, Thomas MacDermant was employed by the county as a carpenter. MacDermants salary was $40,779. Presently MacDermant has a salary of $73,108 that's up $5,515 since his last conviction. He had use of a county vehicle.

In Union County, by statute, it is the freeholders who hire and appoint the county manager. They also hire the warden to run the county jail. The freeholders have chosen to not have the elected Sheriff run the jail as is the case in most counties.

Delaney Hall is an alcohol and drug treatment program. It’s a form of incarceration at a different location from the jail. A Worrall Community News article about Delaney Hall dated March 25, 2003 'county to renew deal for inmates' reporter Joshua Jaitz wrote: Once the county decides which inmates would be good candidates to go to Delaney Hall, permission must be granted by the courts before the inmate is assigned to the alternate facility.

According to a court transcript obtained by the Union County Watchdog Association, Judge Walter Barisonek ruled that MacDermant had a right to go to Delaney Hall. That’s the warden’s decision. However, the warden does not have the authority nor anybody in Delaney Hall, to release him to an outpatient program or any program without judicial approval. The sentence has to be served in the institution. Delaney Hall is part of the institution. They can’t even allow a work release where you’re still considered confined unless it’s approved by the court. The judge also noted that you’re not supposed to be released into a monitoring program until you’re in Delaney Hall for 30 days. MacDermant was released after spending 5 days at Delaney hall.

The county argued that the warden of the Union County Jail has the power to determine if a prisoner is eligible for the satellite monitoring (wristlet) program. After all, while the prisoner is physically on the street it’s the county jail officials that monitor the program, run the program and anyone who’s on it. It’s a global position satellite system. Any deviation from the parameters that are set for each unique particular prisoner sets off the alarm or monitor.

In the transcript Judge Barisonek states that he “saw MacDermant around”. So he knew it wasn’t a home confinement total situation. MacDermant was doing some community service work based on his skills as a contractor.

Poor Tommy MacDermant’s attorney Mr. Palumbo argued that in addition to having his freedom curtailed by being on the wristlet program that he was “held on the medical floor the entire time, not even released to the population. Can’t even walk around.”

Gee this reminds me of the two twenty-something Union County jail prisoners who died in their cells in the past two years. They weren’t incarcerated for being convicted three times for DWI, they were both incarcerated for petty theft charges. One stole a t-shirt. One didn’t have the $300 to get out on bail.

Aaron Pittman and Donald Davis both died in their cells from very preventable, painful deaths; Pittman from Crohn’s disease and Davis from a stomach infection. According to family members, both were left untreated and their screams of pain were ignored.

Another young prisoner had a preventable cancer which went untreated. By the time he was allowed medical attention, he had to have his voice box removed.

Yet poor Tommy was held on the medical floor the entire time of his incarceration at the Union County jail. Away from the general prison population where apparently all the sick prisioners are held.

Mr. Pulumbo: Judge, I briefly stated it. Out of the time when he was within the control of the warden of the Union County Jail, he was told by that warden that in addition to going to Delaney Hall we find you to be a suitable candidate for going to the electronic monitoring program and they told him what his restrictions were. You have to have curfew at a certain time; can’t leave the area outside; can’t go past your home; can’t leave your home at night. There were many times I’m sure he would like to have gone out at eleven o’clock at night to do something he couldn’t do and he did that because he was led to believe by the warden he had to do that in order to satisfy the 180 day sentence.

The sentence called for a mandatory 90 and 90 at a minimum-security prison. 90 days inpatient and 90 days then in the county jail.

MacDermant was put in a 90 day inpatient program. After 22 days he left or was terminated from that program. Judge Jones issued a warrant, and brought him back and resentenced him to 180 days in county jail, less the 22 days he was in the inpatient program; the judge sentenced him to a mandatory 180 days on the second sentencing. First DWI conviction was 90/90; second one was mandatory 180 county jail sentence.

County Counsel Steven Kaflowitz with a salary of $125,005 chimes in defending poor Thomas: Judge, I agree with Mr. Palumbo’s arguments and I just want to put on the record, although I doubt many people will get a hold of the records, I agree with him because it’s a drunk driving case, a motor vehicle violation, it’s not a defendant convicted of an indictable offense. He was let out of jail improperly by jail authorities, as your Honor has just ruled,

Judge: Agrees with Palumbo this is not Mr. MacDermant’s fault that this happened. Rules he is entitled to appropriate credit for 42 days because his liberty to a large extent, although not the equivalent of incarceration on a day to day basis was not his doing.

County Counsel Donegan with a salary of $75,339.16 represented the Warden: They do not have the authority on a mandatory sentence to release someone to an outpatient program, particularly when the state as in the D.W.I. says inpatient, without court approval.

Did MacDermant who is allegedly a close friend of the Union County Manager get special treatment? What needs to be determined is how many three time D.W.I. offenders were allowed out of the Union County jail on the wristlet program to attend A.A. meetings of their own free will. Since the county doesn’t offer up these numbers in defending their handling of MacDermant’s release, I’d hazard a guess that it’s slim to none that the average drunken Tom doesn’t get to draw the get of jail on a bracelet card.

To summarize, Thomas Macdermant spent 100 days in confinement; five days in Delaney Hall; 22 days in rehabilitation, 32 days in jail and 42 days on the monitoring program. In the end Judge Barisonek found that McDermott was to be given 42 days credit against his jail sentence due to the 42 days he was improperly released under the wristlet, because it wasn’t MacDermant’s fault he was released. Even though the Judge conceded that this does "frustrate" the purpose of the DWI statute.

A published appellate division decision, released on March 6, 2006, of State v. Luthe, directly pertains to the MacDermant issue.
Quote: "Simply put, N.J.S.A. 39:4-50(a)(3) does not authorize noncustodial alternatives to the mandatory 180 days confinement, whether that confinement be served entirely in jail or partially in an inpatient facility. There is no statutory authority for work release programs, out-patient treatment, or the like as an alternative."

In other words, Union County's wristlet release was wrong, wrong, wrong.