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Sep 28, 2020 85 tweets 21 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
DAY 15 of the #ulianAssange extradition hearing is about to begin. Our live tweets will be on this thread.

Join us at 5pm BST for Joe Lauria @unjoe's live report on the day's proceedings.

As we wait for Judge Baraitser to arrive, we see that lawyer Yancey Ellis is waiting to testify. His practice appears to be based in Alexandria Virginia.

All stand...
We will hear from a representative from the press association. Fitzgerald says the defence has been unable to take instruction from Mr #Assange, so they want to hear Mr Ellis's testimony first

Before that, judge is reading the application from the press, who want more disclosure
Judge is reading from a ruling by Supreme Court judge Lady Hale. Acc to the principle of open justice, the press has no automatic right to full disclosure. They must cite a good reason & it is up to the court to grant it, especially regarding a defendant's right to privacy.
Any tech issue that impedes open justice must be addressed as a separate issue & the judge must tend to the matter.

Judge refers to specifics of Mr #Assange's medical condition. Both the defence & prosecution agree that the full medical notes do not need to be handed to press.
Statements read in open court may be released. The problem for the press is that arguments from witnesses have been hard to follow, but the judge rules that Mr #Assange's right to privacy takes precedence. Application refused.
Yancy Ellis will now testify. He has made 2 statements, in Dec 2019 & July 14 2020. 15 years a lawyer. Formerly served in a legal capacity in the marines. Now practices in Alexandria Virginia, & is very familiar w/ the Adult Correctional Facility
Says #Assange will be heard there
Mr Manafort, Ms Bettina & @xychelsea were held there.
Lawyer Yancy Ellis says #Assange could be held at ADC in the Administrative Segregation unit (X-Block) as pre-trial defendant for months or years. High profile defendants are always kept away from everyone else.
Ellis has been in ADC's X-Block. Lawyers get a pass to go lawyer-attorney rooms.
Cells very small. Room for bed, mat, metal toilet & not much else. Inmates get out for 1-2 hrs/day. This often happens in the middle of the night. X-Block prisoners have minimal to no social contact.
ADC X-Block is effectively solitary confinement. Even difficult for lawyers to communicate with clients in their cells. They have shout. If food tray closed, almost impossible to communicate w/ other prisoners. They are never taken on breaks at same time.
Ellis disagrees with Assistant Attorney General Gordon Kromberg's description of prison conditions. For Ad-Seg prisoners there's no difference from solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMS) would add restrictions on top of that.
EF So the normal Ad-Seg measures without SAMS, can one make phone calls?

YE Yes, during the 1-2 hour break

EF What would be the impact for someone suffering psychological disability.

YE There's no doctor. Limited treatment. Insufficient monitoring on medication or treatment.
YE They usually just put a special suit on someone who is talking about suicide. Take away shoelaces etc - anything they could kill themselves with.

In principle my access was permitted but it was practically very difficult to get in there. No guards because everyone locked down
Lewis: You say Kromberg's statement about ADC was inaccurate or incomplete.

JL How many prisoners?
YE A few hundred

JL Have you iTV wardens or medical staff?
YE It's a jail.
JL Have you ITVd psychologist or psychiatrist who attends jail?
JL speaking of inspection by US Marshall each year. Checks medical treatment, services. According to Kromberg, the last visit was August 2019 & Marshalls found it to be in compliance with policy.

JL No successful suicides.
YE Yes they have a good record w/ people not succeeding
YE has requested records of assessment but has not been able to obtain them.

JL Kromberg says AD-Seg prisoners have access to programs.
YE That is not the case. The idea of AD-Seg is that prisoners are kept away from everyone else.
Lewis: Were you asked to use the term solitary confinement in your report.
YE No. I was asked how many hours in cell & if any contact w/ others.

Lewis Is it solitary if prisoners can see a lawyer?
YE On all other days, yes.
Lewis You say if someone suicidal due to mental health issues you would be treated in special unit.

YE Some of my clients were sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Lewis You say #Assange is likely to be placed in upper Ad-Seg.

YE Yes upstairs is for permanent Ad-Seg
Lewis Do you know if Mr #Assange will be deemed a security risk?
YE No. They generally don't put high-profile prisoners in with the others.

Lewis: Hasn't there been a lot of public interest & support for #Assange

YE Yes for interest. I can't speak for support
Lewis: Won't Mr #Assange's many lawyers be looking after him
YE: ADC does not give special treatment to anyone. They can try to object to conditions but I don't know what that would do.
Fitzgerald (Defence): Your statement is based on extensive experience

YE Yes. If your trail is going to take a long time, X-Block is the only option for certain prisoners, esp high profile

You spoke of Paul Manafort, Maria Butina & @xychelsea who attempted suicide.
YE She did
Yancey Ellis Based on my experience, high-profile inmates like #Assange, who also have mental health problems are typically placed in Administrative Segregation.
20 minutes break, during which the defence will take instruction. The next witness will be Joel Sickler, who has worked in the field of sentencing and corrections for more than 30 years and currently heads the Justice Advocacy Group LLC.
While awaiting the testimony of Joel Sickler, some information on him and the Justice Advocacy Group.…
We gather fm Yancy Ellis's statement that Asst. Attorney General Gordon Kromberg may have been describing prison conditions for the general population. Whether he believes #Assange would be segregated or not is not public information & he will not face X-examination by defence.
We learn fm Joel Sickler's background that he worked as a graduate fellow at a large maximum-security penitentiary that served the District of Columbia. Active in the officer’s union, he created and led a corrections officer task force that promoted alternatives to incarceration.
Joel Sickler's idea was to promote community-based sentencing and treatment programs for offenders who posed no public safety risk - to lessen overcrowding, create better, safer working conditions & to spare some offenders, mostly youths, from the violent prison experience.
Joel Sickler has taken the stand. 2 statements, in Jan & July 2020. Heads the Justice Advocacy Group in Alexandria Virginia. Advices Bureau of Prisons. Has had a lot of clients in Alexandria detention centre (ADC).

Says #Assange will be placed in Ad-Seg, in his opinion
JS Reason why #Assange will be segregated:
1/ ADC has a legacy of placing detainees in Ad-Seg if their crimes are anything to do with security;
2/based on his notoriety;
3/ to protect him from other inmates.

Cell is less than 8 X 10 feet, acc to lawyers & inmates
JS #Assange would have little or no contact w/ other inmates. If SAMS imposed, absolutely no contact
It is ridiculous to say inmates can converse through bars

No access to outside world ex monitored phone calls & some visits by lawyers.

"Your whole world is the 4 walls of cell"
JS I have read extensive literature about the effect of SAMS.
I do have a client at Colorado ADX who is extremely restricted. Judge can orders. He was convicted in 1998. Still under these conditions after 22 years w/ no end in sight.

ADX is where #Assange would go if convicted
Joel Sickler: Over a dozen of my clients have committed suicide in pre-trial detention. If they are determined to do it, it can be done.

Assange would be most likely placed in Ad-SEG under SAMS at ADC pre-trial detention. If SAMS he will probably go on to ADX under SAMS.
JS #Assange if convicted & sent to Colorado ADX under SAMS, he will be placed in a very small cell, most likely indefinitely. No contact w/ other prisoners. My understanding of the rules is that he could call family once a month for 15 minutes.
EF Can one appeal against SAMS at ADX?
JS It is well-known that even the minorest of appeals are rejected. I have filed over 1000 and have only had success about a dozen times. Some of my colleagues have had no success.
EF Is there an upper limit to the time you can spend in ADX SAMS?
JS It's usually indefinitely but there's a step-down program. But if Mr #Assange is given a life, it's pointless to apply.
EF Is everything better after the Cunningham litigation?
JS Nominal changes for general population. Nothing for SAMS

JS Assange will be classified as a high-security prisoner. SAMS will seal his fate. If not ADX it will be another restricted communications facility.
JS ADX prisoners are heavily medicated. It all sounds great on paper about how these people are treated, but the reality is a different thing. Federal prisons say only 3% of inmates have mental health problems but that doesn't ring true. It's over 30% in state prisons.
JS Significant risk that #Assange will get no treatment for mental health issues at ADX Colorado.
Prosecution asks what Mr Sickler does. He lists his duties of preparing clients for what they are about to face, advising on how they can reduce their sentence, advocates on their behalf.

Sickler has worked in penitentiary with 3000 convicted felons
Sickler mainly focuses on advocacy in terms of sentencing.
He has never been an inspector, but looks at medical & conduct records every day.

Ms Dobbin asks if he has records to prisoner records across the board. He says no but can access records. Also employs medical consultants
Dobbin asks Sickler if his medical consultants are psychiatrists. He says no.

Sickler says none of his clients have been subjected to SAMS, but a number to SAMS-like conditions.

Sickler has not been inside the unit where #Assange would be held but many lawyers have described it
Dobbin reprimanding Sickler because his experience of inside #Assange's possible cell is not first hand. She refers him to Gordon Kromberg's statement. Asks if Sickler that there may be good reason to place #Assange in protective custody. He does.
Sickler asked if he agrees w/ Kromberg that if under AD-Seg he would be able to avail himself programs and speak w/ other prisoner under Ad-Seg. Yes.

He agrees that only Attorney General can oder SAMs & posits that the intelligence community would weigh in.
Dobbin informs Sickler that only people who would be a risk to national security. She is making the point that very few are placed under SAMs, and they MAY include extreme restrictions. It is therefore speculative how they may be applied, Dobbin asserts.
Dobbin cites the case of Wadih El-Hage, key aide to Osama Bin Laden. Even he was not completely isolated...
Dobbin for the prosecution is discrediting Joel Sickler's testimony as hearsay.

We break for lunch and he will be back.
Would the case of the secretary to Osama Bin Laden, Wadhi el-Hage (who was not placed under SAMS), be comparable for the intelligence community to that of #Assange? The issue is the risk of damaging national security information being transmitted to other prisoners.
Dobbins going through specifics of SAMs conditions at ADC. Access to family, access to lawyers. She says it is the same level of lawyer access for all.
Sickler says lawyers currently contact inmates via video & but there are delays for technical reasons.
Dobbins is challenging a claim by Sickler that defending prisoners under SAMs is onerous for lawyers because they too could face prosecution over public pronouncements. She mentions a case where information was conveyed to terrorists.
Dobbin makes the point that ADX is under-populated. Cites Kromberg's list of medical staff. Sickler agrees but says there is often a long wait & no real psychiatric intervention. When someone is severely depressed they are simply medicated.
Sickler mentions Jeffrey Epstein's suicide. Says he was one of the most closely watched inmates. Dobbin says two officers were indicted. Sickler replies that doesn't bring him back.

Dobbin asks him about @xychelsea's attempted suicide. He says conditions are arduous, torturous
Sickler: Even the healthiest inmates report extremely negative effects of prolonged isolation. He concedes that ADC have "stellar record" for preventing successful suicide.
Dobbin reads reports of prisoners on SAMs in 2012, found to be compliant w/ fair trial. Asks if anything has changed re SAMs since then? He says no.

Dobbin discussing post-conviction conditions. The state of Israel said it had confidence in the level of medical care provides.
Sickler replies that Bureau of Prisons had basically paralysed the inmate in question.

Dobbin You can't say whether #Assange would get SAMs

JS The state thinks #Assange has NatSec info. He will be placed under SAMs or have his communications severely restricted.
Dobbin: You were a consultant in the Reality Winner case. She got 63 months?

Sickler: That was a plea. But she is in no way the same kind of prisoner as Assange.

Dobbin: She was designated to a medical centre & mental health counselling.
Sickler: Most defendants need that
Dobbin: Your report refers continuously to ppl in solitary confinement. She lists various kinds of housing. "Most inmates are double-celled".

Cramming 2 ppl into tiny cells is very difficult. Some ppl end up alone. Others get beaten up by cell mates.
Dobbin lists more variations of housing, some relating to violent prisoners. Now moves on to ADX. The 1st step is a decision abt where & how someone should be placed. That's where you come in, right?
Sickler: Yes. In ADX my recommendations given some weight, but many ppl decide
Sickler is saying that decision are made at the highest levels in Washington re the placement of inmates.

Dobbin Are you aware ppl w/ mental illness will not be housed at ADX unless an exceptional security risk?

JS They make all kinds of exceptions.
Dobbins: Do you agree that family members can visit ppl under SAMs?

Sickler: If they can get there, & visits are very rare. How often will Mr #Assange receive family visits under SAMs at ADX.

Dobbins cites a terrorist, Mr Mutalab, who is allowed visits.
Dobbin citing other possibilities for Multalab to communicate w/ others.
Sickler: It seems 2 family members can visit. I don't know how often. In general prison conditions 20 family members can.
Dobbin: You say #Assange will be kept indefinitely in H unit? How do you know that?
Sickler: When is no longer being a threat to national security?Based on 40 years experience. I have a client kept under SAMs-like conditions (isolation) for 22 years.
Dobbin talking about step-down program at ADX.
Sickler says that can't happen until after 2 years, but if the Attorney General designates #Assange won't be eligible.
Dobbin says that is not the case.

JS: Well it's just so arduous. If you're saying there's a possibility of relief
Dobbin details the 3-phase Step-down program.
Sickler: It sounds awful, even w/ the privileges
Dobbin: But you accept how someone can progress though the 3-phase program & eventually out of ADX?
Dobbin: Do you know how many have been taken off SAMS since 2012?
JS: I don't think there's any debate how deleterious the conditions at ADX are. Even the wardens say that.

Dobbin will move on to medical care at ADX.
SAMS does not prevent health care, or hospitalisation?
Dobbin asks if Sickler can offer an opinion about changes in conditions since the Cunningham litigation.
JS: No

Dobbin: Increased access to psychology services. ADX Florence has more mental health staff than any other prisons.
Sickler: It's the conditions that necessitate this.
Dobbin: So there are lots of staff & effective treatment?
Sickler: I don't know if it's effective.
Dobbin: How many w/ mental health problems were moved out of ADX as a result of the Cunningham settlement.
JS: Over 100. No one on SAMs
Dobbin: So new policies were introduced re the treatment of mental illness in prisons.
Sickler: Yes, the policies were written, but they mainly applied for people w/ schizophrenia.

Dobbin: Have conditions improved at ADX re mental health?
Sickler: Not in a position to say
Dobbin: You refer to the Chapman case when you say conditions weren't met at ADX re standard of care.

Sickler: That was abt physical health.
Dobbin: The doctors lost their appeal when they claimed immunity. That paved the way for a trial. The judge ruled in favour of claimants.
Dobbin: You understand there will be a trial
Sickler: Unless there's a settlement
Dobbin: You understand there's been a decrease in the number of prisoners at ADX and a ratio of staff members to prisoners of 8:1?
Sickler: Yes
Dobbin: I'm going to refer to reports you cite...
Dobbin: In 20214, b4 Cunningham settlement, there were a significant number of prisoners who wanted to remain at ADX.
It was clear in the report that the staff knew the prisoners very well.
Sickler: That's extraordinary. Must be such a wonderful place, if ppl don't want to leave
Dobbin: The 2014 report's recommendations... The BOP disputed the finding of under-diagnosis by the inspector because the sample size was too small.

Sickler: Yes they rejected what the inspector reported.
Dobbin: The 2017 made a lot of recommendations. The BOP adopted almost all
Dobbin Can you see almost all recommendations were adopted?
Sickler I just can't see it happening
Sickler has been trying to say the conditions create mental health problems. Cites mentally ill prisoner who was severely beaten. "What I see in practice doesn't match their reports"
Sickler: I have a client who is with-drawing from substance abuse. There is a problem w/ the particular substance he needs so they are giving him nothing.
Dobbin: When it comes to anti-depressants or sedatives there's no difficulty?
Sickler It may take time, but no.
Sickler I agree that policies are place, but I disagree that they are followed on a day-to-day basis. I see 100s of cases where the system fails my clients.

Dobbin How ppl that you treat are unfit for trial?
Sickler Not many. I have dozens who need hospitalisation but won't.
Dobbin: Why are successful suicides less common in the BOP institutions than state institutions.
Sickler: They are well funded. The security is higher
Dobbin: Dr Luke Feld cites the number of positions being created by BOP.
Sickler: I was glad to read more staff being employed
Sickler: If staffing is increasing that's good
Dobbin: Would you agree 80 psychologists is significant
Sickler: Yes
Dobbin: You say what has changed since Ahmed 2010 is the use of Communication Management Units.
Sickler: There are various levels of confinement at CMUs
Dobbin: People in CMUs are not in solitary confinement, they just have their communications restricted?

Sickler: Correct, at various levels.

Dobbin asks about a line above his signature, if he wrote it.
Sickler: No, I thought that was pro forma.
Re-examination of Joel Sickler.
Fitzgerald: Despite the long cross-examination do you still stand by your conclusions that there is a high risk of Assange committing suicide, that will be isolated and for a long time?
JS Yes
EF Do you trust the sources of info u rely on?
JS Yes
Sickler: There will be no meaningful social interaction for Mr Assange. You can scream & no one hears you.

EF: You stand by the reasons you cited why #Assange will be placed under SAMs

Sickler: Yes, especially for the national security reason
Sickler: There is a real risk of SAMs for #Assange
EF : You were challenged on whether SAMs inmates were indefinitely isolated during pre-trial. Does the E-Hage example invalidate your statement?

Sickler: No, also after sentencing courts have no more say.
EF: During phase 1 of step down from SAMs it euphemistically says "Inmates recreate individually". What does that mean?

Sickler: They walk into a small court alone.
EF: Is it yr experience that ppl want to stay?
JS: No, I have a client who is begging to get out of there. They seem to cherry-pick who they want to interview, but some inmates may have become completely institutionalised.
JS I've had some clients who have died in prison who should have been given compassionate release; a handful who have committed suicide & 100s who have not received proper health treatment - and that is documented.
You said medium & high security prisons were very dangerous places. How so?
JS If you are a police informant or sex offender, sentences at those prisons can be lethal. High-profile prisoners face serious threats & extortion. Whitey Bulger was stabbed to death on 1st day.
Tomorrow's witnesses will be Maureen Baird & Lindsey Lewis. More long cross-examinations to be expected.

The press want transcripts. Judge says she is not the owner & it is up to defence & prosecution. Arrangements will be made however for delivery of the ruling on disclosure.

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