2 DOC workers want speedy trials so they can get back to work

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 at 10:53 p.m.
Attorneys for two Department of Corrections employees on unpaid leave said Wednesday that they hope a speedy trial will get the men back to work.
But a lawyer for the State Attorney's Office said the volume of evidence and the number of witnesses in what is now a misdemeanor case may make that difficult.
Apalachee Correctional Institution Col. Richard Frye, 36, and Major James Bowen, 33, along with former Regional Director Allen "AC" Clark, 40, were charged in early November with felony battery for their alleged roles in an April 1 fight at the National Guard Armory in Tallahassee.
Those charges were later dropped to misdemeanors, and now carry a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. Bowen and Frye were initially placed on paid leave following their arrests, but moved to unpaid leave and subsequently evicted from their state-provided housing in Sneads.
Clark, a close friend of DOC Secretary James Crosby, had resigned from the department in August amid FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigations. Attorneys for the three men told Leon County Judge Timothy Harley at a Wednesday morning hearing that a speedy trial was necessary to allow Bowen and Frye to return to the department.
"We want them to get back their jobs and as long as these charges are pending, there's no possibility at all," said Gloria Fletcher, a Gainesville attorney representing Frye. "Which doesn't seem fair."
Harley set jury selection for Feb. 3 with tentative plans for the trial to begin the following week. Harley had earlier excused Bowen, Frye and Clark from personally attending Wednesday's hearing. Bowen's attorney, Steven Andrews of Tallahassee, cautioned the judge that the number of witnesses and evidence - more than 20 witnesses and hundreds of pages of statements and investigatory notes - meant the trial could last two days or longer. Assistant State Attorney Phil Smith said their office was "taking a hard look at all the evidence" and that the voluminous nature of the information could slow the process. Fletcher also said she would ask DOC officials to explain why Bowen and Frye were still on unpaid leave while four DOC employees charged this week with federal misdemeanors related to steroids were on paid leave.
DOC spokesman Robby Cunningham said the agency was still reviewing the circumstances surrounding the most recent steroids charges, adding that there has been no change in the job status of either Bowen or Frye.
The otherwise mundane misdemeanor trial for the three men has drawn more scrutiny to their roles in a year of state and federal investigations that are ongoing. Allegations against current and past DOC workers include steroid use and distribution, embezzlement, improper use of state inmate labor and prison materials and the hiring of people solely to play on prison softball teams. Investigators seized items from the state homes where Clark and Bowen had been living as well as items from other prison employees' homes. According to reports from the FDLE and Tallahassee Police, Frye, Bowen and Clark struck former correctional officer James Edward O'Bryan at the April 1 softball banquet after he had accidentally slipped in a puddle of beer and vomit and knocked down a woman who worked for Clark.

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