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* Looking At Jail From The Bright Side

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  • jail4judges
    J.A.I.L. News Journal ____________________________________________________ Los Angeles, California April 12, 2001
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 12, 2001
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      J.A.I.L. News Journal
      ____________________________________________________
      Los Angeles, California                                               April 12, 2001 
       
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      Looking At Jail
      From The Bright Side
      (Mocking The System)
       
      It's jail, and he likes it just fine
      By Christy Gutowski,
      Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

      James Pihera describes his living conditions this way: He's in a gated community, dines on free cuisine and has dozens of servants at his beck and call.

      For nearly four years, Pihera has lived at 501 N. County Farm Road - more commonly known as the DuPage County jail. And that's exactly where the 69-year-old man chooses to be. He's
      even fought efforts to put him back on the street by threatening to
      commit a crime. "Being in jail is hell," he says. "But at my age, it doesn't matter where I'm at. It doesn't bother me one bit. I've never had it so good."

      Not only that, he holds the dubious distinction of being the longest-running inmate in a county jail where the typical stay is less than one year. Defendants sentenced to anything longer are transferred to state prisons.

      "I told the judge I like it here," he said in an interview from the jail. "It's better than under a viaduct. Hey, I live in a gated community with free food and free servants. I never had it so good."

      Pihera, a diabetic, is confined to a wheelchair after falling in  October 1997 while being taken from court back to the jail.

      He spends most of his time in the jail alone, either researching
      in the law library (even filing his own legal briefs on occasion),
      watching the news or sleeping. He is kept in a segregated area, away from direct contact with other inmates due to his age, medical condition and past history of squabbles. ....
       
      Pihera's conspiracy theories have landed him in the Elgin Mental
      Health Facility twice since his arrest. One psychologist noted in a 1997 report, "despite a cheerful demeanor and ability to relate in a personal way, he's manifested clear evidence of a paranoid psychotic disorder."

      Despite that, experts at the mental health facility found Pihera
      stable enough to return to the county jail both times after 90-day
      stints in Elgin.

      Besides the questions of mental fitness, there's another reason for the length of Pihera's stay at the county jail: His distrust in the legal system. He refused to cooperate with two assistant public
      defenders assigned to the case. Pihera now is represented by two taxpayer-paid private attorneys who are working together on both civil and criminal proceedings.
      Though Pihera hasn't been successful in convincing judges he was swindled, one local advocacy group is behind him, even passing out flyers on his behalf that suggest Pihera's been denied medical care. "Jim was a successful businessman in DuPage County who was swindled out of his retirement property, house, business, equipment and Social Security by corrupt ...Illinois lawyers and judges," according to the FAIR and Justice Seekers flyer.

      Prosecutors aren't shedding any tears for James Pihera. In fact,
      they've tried to get him sprung - temporarily that is.

      It costs taxpayers about $60 a day to house Pihera - and that doesn't account for the thousands of dollars in attorney and medical fees that are paid out of public coffers since he's considered indigent.

      Prosecutor Steven Knight tried to get Pihera's $300,000 bond reduced, saying the man has no criminal history and, if convicted, likely would be sentenced a term comparable to what he's already served while awaiting trial.

      Pihera fought the move, though. He even told DuPage Circuit Judge Ann Jorgensen he'd never show up for court and likely would commit a crime if released. "I won't tell you where I'm at, nothing," he said, looking up defiantly from his wheelchair. Pihera got his wish. The judge sent him back to his jail cell.
       
      Though jail volunteers routinely work with inmates such as Pihera to help them find housing when they're released, he admits he has no interest in halfway houses or the like should he be found eligible.

      He clings to the belief that he'll ultimately be vindicated by the
      courts, and that his property will be returned. "I don't want to get out (of jail) until they give me my house back," Pihera said. "They thought I'd cave in. I'm not going to. I get stronger all the time. I'm a survivor. I know I'm going to win."
       
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