Wyoming Federal Judge: Jail Isn’t Violating Former Casper Doctor’s Rights
A former Casper doctor incarcerated in Nebraska while awaiting trial for allegedly organizing a multi-state prescription drug conspiracy has complained about violations of his religious rights and access to legal materials.
But a federal judge recently denied Shakeel Kahn's request to demand his jailers appear in court to explain why they're doing this, while ordering them to not unreasonably interfere with his ability to prepare his defense before his trial next year.
Shakeel Kahn and other defendants are accused of conspiring to distribute oxycodone, alprazolam, hydromophone and carisprodol, which resulted in the death of another person, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin wrote last week.
He is being held at the Scotts Bluff County Detention Center (SBCDC) in Gering, Neb..
Kahn has repeatedly complained that the jail's staff have violated his religious rights, in part by denying him proper food and their assumtions that because he is a practicing Muslim he must be a terrorist, he wrote in one letter.
In early October, he told the court the jail has denied his right to Halal (specially blessed foods) meals, noon-time Friday congregational prayer, and the ability to use the shower before prayers. "For three weeks Dr. Kahn subsisted on essentially bread and water losing over 13 pounds and likely impacting his health. Such treatment smacks of torture, which is strictly prohibited," he wrote.
He also objected to being moved into an area of the jail with sex offenders, as well as other insulting treatment, he wrote. "I am a prisoner in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union for all intents and purposes."
Kahn also said he was not allowed to have access to all the legal materials he needed for his defense.
The courts have upheld that right, but only to a point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Sprecher wrote in response.
"However, this obligation does not require inmates to have unlimited access to a law library or give inmates 'the right to select the method by which access will be provided," Sprecher wrote.
The jail has tried to strike a balance between granting access to legal materials without compromising its security, but Kahn hasn't helped his cause, she wrote.
He has tried multiple times to communicate with co-defendants and potential witnesses, all violations of a court order to have no such contact, Sprecher wrote.
For example, Kahn wrote to his wife and co-defendant, Lyn Kahn, that he found a screw in in a shower and began sharpening it," she wrote. "The letter further stated that these 'SBCDC bastards with pay too [sic] with their lives if it comes to that.'"
Jail staff searched Kahn's cell, found the screw, changed his threat level to very high, and removed all items from him. Some of those items were later returned, Sprecher wrote.
In his ruling, Rankin cited those breaches of security and threats that resulted in the jail's requirement that Kahn be accompanied by two guards even to the law library.
In agreeing with the prosecution, Rankin added the jail has not unfairly denied access to legal materials.
"In sum, the Government contends Mr. Kahn is subject to necessary and appropriate restrictions due to his own conduct, which poses a safety risk to the jail staff, and they strike a fair balance between the safety of others and his need to represent and defend himself," Rankin wrote.