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Prison inmate sentenced in officer assault

August 18, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

A prison inmate who held a correctional officer against his will and cut him with a homemade knife was sentenced Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court to serve 30 years in prison.

Talbert Parran, 44, was found guilty of false imprisonment, assault, reckless endangerment and weapons charges stemming from an October 2004 incident at the Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

It took the jury about 20 minutes to return the guilty verdicts.

Parran's 30-year sentence will be added to the remainder of the 35-year sentence he was serving for assault and armed robbery.

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Parran entered the courtroom Wednesday carrying a copy of The Criminal Law Handbook under his right arm. He repeatedly asked for legal representation, saying he had written to the public defender's office but had gotten no response.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III said the trial had been delayed before and, at that time, he advised Parran to get a lawyer. Wright said Wednesday he would not delay the trial again.

Parran represented himself during Wednesday's jury trial but continued throughout the trial to ask for a lawyer.

Parran was an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Training Center when he was taken to nearby MCI on Oct. 20, 2004, for a grievance hearing, according to testimony Wednesday.

Washington County Assistant State's attorney Robert Veil said Parran assaulted John Sandstrom, a correctional officer at MCI, after being transferred there from MCTC. Veil said Parran had requested the hearing, at which inmates have the opportunity to discuss complaints or grievances before a law judge.

When Parran entered the small room near the visitation area on the second floor of an MCI building, Sandstrom was looking at Parran's file. He had his head down and never saw Parran, Sandstrom testified Wednesday.

"I was grabbed from behind and pulled to the corner of the room," Sandstrom testified. "It felt like a blade was placed on my neck."

Witnesses said Parran held a small knife he had constructed from a toothbrush handle and three razor blades. Sandstrom said Parran held the knife against his neck and kept him captive for about 90 minutes.

During that time, Parran made threats and issued several demands written on a yellow piece of paper. The demands included a meeting with Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., Lt. Gov. Michael Steele and other state officials, Sgt. Mark Forest, an MCTC officer, testified.

A hostage negotiator was called to the prison.

Sandstrom said he was cut by Parran and received medical treatment at the detention center after Parran released him. Sandstrom said he also was tested for HIV for six months after the incident.

During pretrial proceedings Wednesday, Parran attempted to leave the courtroom and was detained by four Washington County Sheriff's Department deputies. A short time later, Parran asked to leave the courtroom.

"I don't need to be here," he said. "I'm not cooperating."

Wright said Parran could wait in a holding room or return to the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center, known as Super Max, where he has been held since the October incident. Parran left the courtroom, escorted by deputies.

He later returned and represented himself during the trial.

Parran repeatedly noted that he was not allowed to question any of his own witnesses. He had requested that 26 inmates be brought from MCTC to testify on his behalf.

Wright said Parran's request for the witnesses was denied due to safety concerns.

Wright told Parran he may appeal the verdict or apply for a panel of judges to review the case within 30 days.

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