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Citing the state’s shoddy prison health-care system, an attorney for convicted jewel thief George Turner recently persuaded a San Francisco judge to keep his client � who suffers from Crohn’s disease � in the county lockup. But the local sheriff, who operates the county jail, doesn’t want the burden of an additional, expensive inmate. So he’s turned to the First District Court of Appeal to try to undo the order and make Turner move on to state prison. Turner pleaded guilty to robbery and false imprisonment charges last year, and has served nearly three years of his 12-year, eight-month sentence in the county jail’s infirmary. His attorney, Garry Preneta, has argued since January that sending his client to state prison would violate his Eighth Amendment rights. Turner’s condition was manageable with proper diet and medical care before he was incarcerated, Preneta said, but his health has grown worse. He suffers from stomach pains and diarrhea, needs a wheelchair due to joint problems, and was more recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C, according to his attorney and court filings. “[Inmates] shouldn’t leave prison physically worse than when they got in,” Preneta said. Apparently Judge Charles Haines agrees. Citing “deficient” medical care at the Department of Corrections, Haines issued an order two weeks ago postponing Turner’s move to state prison until the state prison system gives adequate assurance that Turner would receive proper medical care. “The CDC is unable to provide Defendant Turner with adequate and necessary health care, which failure would subject him to a potentially life threatening situation,” Haines wrote in his order last month. But Sheriff Michael Hennessey is fighting the judge’s order, stating in a petition for a writ of mandamus filed Friday that if it’s left standing, “county Sheriff’s [sic] throughout the state will be burdened with having to house medically fragile state inmates.” The county jail facilities usually just house pretrial defendants and those serving sentences of one year or less. The burden of the order in Turner’s case is particularly “onerous” because the “medically fragile” require more resources than the average inmate, attorney Franz Fuetsch wrote in the sheriff’s court filing. A spokesperson for Hennessey said the sheriff would reserve comment until a hearing on the matter.
‘With George, the primary focus has been, “OK, I realize I’m going to do some time here, but I don’t want my 12-year, eight-month sentence to be a death sentence.”‘

GARRY PRENETA San Francisco attorney


Last year, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson ruled in a class action against the state that an administrator should take over the Department of Corrections’ medical system. Since then, the federal court has appointed Robert Sillen, who has echoed Judge Henderson’s statements that the health conditions at the California Department of Corrections are deplorable. Turner collaborated with Dino and Troy Smith three years ago in stealing more than $6 million worth of antique jewels from a store in San Francisco by digging through the wall of the business next door, according to the Los Angeles Times. Turner, Preneta said, is more concerned about surviving his sentence rather than serving his sentence. “He’s terrified,” Preneta said. “With George, the primary focus has been, ‘OK, I realize I’m going to do some time here, but I don’t want my 12-year, eight-month sentence to be a death sentence.’”

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