Transgender individual sentenced in court

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County Common Pleas Judge John Vavra ruled on several cases Monday, including one involving a transgender defendant with special medical needs.

Jasmine Ann Anderson, 44, of Bridgeport was sentenced to 16 months in prison for having weapons under disability, a felony of the fourth degree occurring Oct. 15. Defense lawyers asked for no incarceration, urging Vavra to consider Anderson’s medical needs as well as issues that arose during a prior incarceration in a male-only facility. Anderson is a transgender individual who identifies as female.

The defense also pointed out that Anderson had been in possession of a muzzleloader used for hunting. Anderson said a conflict arose when friends of her employees in a tree service business she was operating stole equipment from her business.

“I had been addicted to heroin and got myself clean, and I wanted to do something good,” Anderson said. “I’ve lost everything. I was just trying to run a business and do the right thing. The people that I hired were people that I thought were trying to get clean. That was kind of why I started the business — to give addicts a chance, because a lot of people won’t, and in doing so I’ve ended up losing everything and being here.

“What I did with the weapon was a mistake,” Anderson continued. “I honestly thought that a muzzleloader was permissible for me to have. I read the law wrong, and for that I’m sorry.”

Anderson added that she is suffering from cancer and was at the hospital receiving treatment when the thefts took place. Afterward she went to confront an employee who she said had taken some of her equipment to repair then refrained from communicating with her. Law enforcement officers were called to the scene of that confrontation and discovered the loaded weapon had been in Anderson’s possession.

Anderson told the court she has decided to forego cancer treatment.

“I just want to go home and die in peace,” she said.

Vavra pointed to Anderson’s prior convictions for trafficking in drugs and said she was cited for rules violations while in prison. Vavra also said this crime involved Anderson taking a loaded firearm to the home of the victim and threatening to shoot the victim while his family was in the residence. He also noted Anderson’s admitted pattern of drug abuse.

“The defendant is not now amenable to a bed (at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center) and available community control sentence,” he said.

Vavra added that the staff of the prison facilities in Orient, Ohio, will determine proper housing and placement for Anderson. Judicial release remains a possibility, the judge said.

“Last time you were given a community control sentence, you violated it and had to go to prison,” Vavra said. “This time we’re reversing that order.”

The correction facility at Orient could not be reached for comment regarding its policies on transgender individuals.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s policy is to be sensitive to the issues of individuals identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersexual while remaining consistent with security guidelines. The staff will consider on a case-by-case basis the placement of such individuals and whether their placement will present management or security problems. The inmate’s own views are also taken into consideration, according to the DRC.

New corrections employees receive familiarity training regarding the LGBTI population during orientation, and institutions are required to include LGBTI population awareness training during annual sexual misconduct training. Staff members are expected to treat all inmates with respect and avoid demeaning language and slurs.

Although the policy states an inmate’s sexual orientation or gender identity must be known for placement and other decisions, staff members shall be aware of the sensitive nature of the topic and possible repercussions for inmates should this information become general knowledge. Staff members are only to share this information for purposes of risk assessment, classification and housing placement, medical and mental health care, programming placement, and reasons of safety and security.

All inmates are screened for risk of being sexually abused by other inmates or sexually abusive toward other inmates. All inmates will be reassessed at least every six months regarding placement and programming assignments, with special attention given to threats to an inmate’s safety.

The policy states that transgender inmates are to be given the opportunity to shower separately, and that staff shall not search or physically examine a transgender inmate for the purpose of determining the individual’s biological status.

In other matters, Brittaney Dawn Ritchea, 22, of Flushing was sentenced to three years of community controls for tampering with evidence, a felony of the fourth degree occurring Oct. 21. She will serve six months in jail and six months at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center. The defense asked Vavra to consider her severe drug problem and lack of prior felony record. Vavra pointed out her prior convictions for misuse of credit cards and possession of drug documents. Her current charge stemmed from taking drugs while being transported to jail on another warrant. He also pointed out that community controls will allow better control over her, and by state legislation she was ineligible for prison. She will be transported to the Eastern Ohio Correction Center as soon as a bed is available.

Joseph Duane Tolliver, 36, of 12 Chestnut St., Bridgeport was sentenced to 36 months in the penitentiary with credit for 43 days for attempted assault, a felony of the third degree occurring Sept. 28. Vavra pointed out Tolliver’s prior felony conviction and prison sentence for abduction, as well as assault, theft, attempted theft, driving under suspension, public drunkenness and convictions for domestic violence.

“He is unable to control his alcohol consumption, even though he acknowledges that that abuse contributes to his criminal behavior,” Vavra said.