A_Sheriff_Thompson.jpgSheriff Jim Thompson

Sheriff discounts jailer's story

Admits state's attorney's wife is on jail tapes

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

GALESBURG - Knox County Sheriff Jim Thompson refuted claims made by former jail administrator Rich Morris in a news conference held Monday.

Morris told The Register-Mail June 8 he made Thompson aware of fraternization between a federal prisoner and a female correctional officer in March 2005 and Thompson chose to not pursue the matter.

Morris says he was fired in September 2005 for pressing Thompson to tell the Illinois Department of Corrections about the incident. Thompson maintains there was nothing more to the report than policy violations and says Morris was fired for beating an inmate.

B_Rich_Morris.jpg
Rich Morris

"Rich Morris was fired for abusing prisoners," Thompson said. "He (Morris) was given seven days off a year prior to his firing for trying to choke a prisoner."

Thompson went on to say Morris gave investigators different renditions of the events that occurred during the incident that led up his firing.

According to Thompson, Morris voluntarily submitted to a polygraph conducted by the Illinois State Police.

Thompson said the polygraph report indicated Morris did not answer truthfully when asked if he stomped inmate Jermaine Jackson's head. "Morris wants to become a fellow traveler with (John) Pepmeyer," Thompson said. "Both are liars and that will be proven in court."

Morris told The Peoria Journal Star Monday he was on anti-depressants at the time and did fail the polygraph examiner's question about kicking Jackson in the head.

Morris also confirmed he was suspended for a week in 2002 for choking an inmate.

Morris said it was a hold that was taught to officers but was banned at the time he used it.

"It wasn't like I strangled him or anything," Morris said.

State's Attorney John Pepmeyer is accused of sexual harassment by two employees in his office. After the allegations surfaced, Pepmeyer told media the grievances were an attempt to stop him from investigating former state's attorney Paul Mangieri, now a judge, and Thompson. Pepmeyer specifically said he was investigating an alleged incident between a prisoner and jail employee.

Morris said he tried to convince Thompson to report the phone calls between federal prisoner Arthur Bolds and a Knox County corrections officer. The former corrections officer, now an employee in the state's attorney's office, is one of three employees suing Pepmeyer. Her complaint is that she was sexually harassed.

By law, the Knox County jail must report suspected fraternization between an inmate and a corrections officer, a felony offense, to IDOC within 72 hours. That didn't occur.

Thompson previously said it was a case of fraternization, and there were never allegations of physical contact between the correctional officer and the inmate.

"I decided not to pursue a criminal investigation of (the corrections officer) based on a report filed by Rich Morris," Thompson said. "In that report, he said the relationship between (the corrections officer) and the prisoner never went beyond phone calls and there wasn't anything to pursue."

Morris said Thompson pressured him to tone down the preliminary report on the phone calls.

According to Morris, he learned of taped conversations between an inmate and a jail employee in the last few days of March 2005. He told Sheriff Thompson about the calls and said the content of the conversations implied a sexual relationship between the inmate and the corrections officer. The calls were recorded.

At Monday's news conference, Thompson confirmed that the former state's attorney's wife, Felicia Mangieri, could be heard in the background during one of the taped phone calls.

Morris said he told Paul Mangieri that Felicia's voice could be heard in the background of one of Bolds' calls to the correctional officer.

Mangieri said Morris approached him in "late February or the first of March 2005," two months after Mangieri had hired the correctional officer to work in the state's attorney's office.

"Rich Morris advised me of the tapes and that Felicia's voice could be heard during one of the calls," Paul Mangieri said. "Obviously, Felicia didn't know who the correctional officer was talking to."

Paul Mangieri said Felicia did not know about any relationship between the correctional officer

and federal inmate Arthur Bolds until the spring of 2005.

"Felicia found out then because Rich Morris told me, and Jim Thompson approached us about it," Paul Mangieri said. "Up until that time, Felicia had no idea of any kind of relationship between (the correctional officer) and an inmate."

Felicia Mangieri declined to comment.

Pepmeyer's allegation that Thompson tried to cover up the jail sex scandal is Pepmeyer's attempt to divert attention away from the sexual harassment allegations against the state's attorney's office, Thompson said.

Thompson said he is considering filing a civil suit for slanderous remarks made about him

"I am in conversation about potential civil litigation," he said. "We will see how justice is served first."

Thompson also shed some light on his future in Knox County. He said he is considering a job offer and the possibility of resigning in the fall.

He said he has considered retirement for more than a year and will make his decision after July 4.

"I would not recommend politics to anyone," Thompson said.

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