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A Hartford, Conn., Superior Court judge has said the court cannot micromanage the actions of the Department of Correction, holding that the department can ban white supremacist literature entirely, rather than redact the objectionable portions. Judge Richard Rittenband granted the department’s motion for reconsideration of his prior order that the department redact the inflammatory language from literature taken from Northern Connecticut Institute inmate John C. Barletta. Barletta — who was transferred to Somers after killing roommate Kenneth Briggaman at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown, Conn., in 1999 — attacked the facility’s warden, Lawrence J. Myers, on Aug. 3, just six days before Rittenband’s decision was official. Myers was making his daily rounds at the Somers facility during lunchtime when he was attacked by Barletta, who slashed his face with a razor blade. Barletta also reportedly attacked employees Major Michael LaJoie and Major Scott Semple, who suffered minor injuries. Convicted of murder and attempted murder in 1992 for his shooting rampage in Norwalk, Conn., after a bad drug deal, Barletta has been placed in his own cell with his movement and privileges limited since the attack, according to Correction spokeswoman Christina Polce. “It appears he makes his racist beliefs known,” Polce said. According to a memorandum of law that Barletta wrote “in support of an injunction to grant religious rights,” in John C. Barletta v. Warden, he was deprived of “his religious books, literature and material” published by the World Church of the Creator at the beginning of the year. Assistant Attorney General Richard T. Biggar handled the case for the DOC, stating that Barletta’s books, including the “White Man’s Bible,” “Nature’s Eternal Religion,” the “Creator Membership Manual,” and the “Little White Book,” were racist hate literature that posed a distinct threat to the safety and security of the department’s operations. In Biggar’s motion to reconsider, he said that the DOC did not seek to exclude the material due to religious reasons, as Barletta had claimed, but rather only for security reasons. “This court cannot micro manage the actions of the [DOC] in determining what is detrimental to the security of the institution,” Rittenband wrote in his decision. “The First Amendment is not unlimited. Free speech does not permit one to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, nor does freedom of religion permit a prisoner to receive material that is inflammatory and threatens the security of the correctional institution.” Polce said the department “appreciated” Rittenband’s decision. Biggar, who was on vacation and could not be reached for comment, cited Thornburgh v. Abbott among others in his Aug. 3 motion, allowing the DOC to prevent such literature from entering a correctional institution if a determination is made that such materials presented a security or safety threat. Polce said guards at the prison encountered Barletta’s literature through a regular mail search performed on all incoming materials for inmates. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he thought Rittenband’s decision had “nothing to do with” Barletta as an individual, but was based more on the need to maintain order and respect in the correction facilities. “There are well-established legal principles that back up the administrative decisions of the corrections officials, and that give some deference to the [DOC} to manage potentially difficult and dangerous situations,” Blumenthal said. He said he was not familiar with any other similar cases, and that the issue now was between the DOC and Barletta. Biggar argued that the types of material in Barletta’s possession were so interwoven and integral that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to perform a redaction of such material.

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