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Ed Cummings (Bernie S.) has been in prison since the spring of 1995 and is the first person to have been imprisoned without bail for something as harmless as possession of a modified Radio Shack tone dialer. He is also being charged with possession of a computer (no joke) and software which could be used to modify a cellular phone. This case is significant in that if successful in prosecuting him, the government would be able to prosecute almost any one of us because the tones and the information in his possession are very easy to get ahold of. If you want to send Bernie S. a letter, just send email to his account, His indictment follows:





DATE FILED: 6/8/95

VIOLATIONS: 18 U.S.C. S1029(a)(5) (Possession of modified telecommunication instruments - 2 counts) 18 U.S.C. S1029(a)(6) (Possession of hardware and software used for altering telecommunications instruments - 1 count)




On or about March 13, 1995, in Haverford Township, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, defendant EDWARD E. CUMMINGS, knowingly and with intent to defraud did possess and have custody and control of a telecommunications instrument, that is a speed dialer, that had been modified and altered to obtain unauthorized use of telecommunication services through the use of public telephones.

In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(5).



On or about March 15, 1995, in Haverford Township, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, defendant EDWARD E. CUMMINGS, knowingly and with intent to defraud did possess and have custody and control of a telecommunications instrument, that is a speed dialer, that had been modified and altered to obtain unauthorized use of telecommunication services through the use of public telephones.

In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(5).



On or about March 15, 1995, at Villanova, in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, defendant EDWARD E. CUMMINGS, knowingly and with intent to defraud did possess and have custody and control of hardware and software, that is an IBM "Think Pad" laptop computer and computer disks, used for altering and modifying telecommunications instruments to obtain unauthorized access to telecommunications service.

In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(6).



United States Attorney
First Assistant U.S. Attorney

Here is a copy of the statute he is alleged to have violated:

title 18 u.s.c. 1029 Fraud and related activity in connection with access devices

(a) Whoever

(1) knowingly and with intent to defraud produces, uses, or traffics in one or more counterfeit access devices;

(2) knowingly and with intent to defraud traffics in or uses one or more unauthorized access devices during any one-year period, and by such conduct obtains anything of value aggregating $1,000 or more during that period;

(3) knowingly and with intent to defraud possesses fifteen or more devices which are counterfeit or unauthorized access devices;

(4) knowingly and with intent to defraud, produces, traffics in, has control or custody of, or possesses device-making equipment;


(5) knowingly and with intent to defraud uses, produces, traffics in, has control or custody of, or possesses a telecommunications instrument that has been modified or altered to obtain unauthorized use of telecommunications services; or

(6) knowingly and with intent to defraud uses, produces, traffics in, has control or custody of, or possesses

(A) a scanning receiver; or

==> (B) hardware or software used for altering or modifying telecommunications instruments to obtain unauthorized access to telecommunications services,

(5)1 knowingly and with intent to defraud effects transactions, with 1 or more access devices issued to another person or persons, to receive payment or any other thing of value during any 1-year period the aggregate value of which is equal to or greater than $1,000;

(6)2 without the authorization of the issuer of the access device, knowingly and with intent to defraud solicits a person for the purpose of

(A) offering an access device; or


(B) selling information regarding or an application to obtain an access device; or

(7) without the authorization of the credit card system member knowingly and with intent to defraud causes or arranges for another person to present to the member or its agent, for payment, 1 or more evidences or records of transactions made by an access device;

shall, if the offense affects interstate or foreign commerce, be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section.


(1) Whoever attempts to commit an offense under subsection (a) of this section shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

(2) Whoever is a party to a conspiracy of two or more persons to commit an offense under subsection (a) of this section, if any of the parties engages in any conduct in furtherance of such offense, shall be fined an amount not greater than the amount provided as the maximum fine for such offense under subsection (c) of this section or imprisoned not longer than one-half the period provided as the maximum imprisonment for such offense under subsection (c) of this section, or both.

(c) The punishment for an offense under subsection (a) or (b)(1) of this section is


(1) a fine under this title or twice the value obtained by the offense, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both, in the case of an offense under subsection (a)(2), (3), (5), (6), or (7) of this section which does not occur after a conviction for another offense under either such subsection, or an attempt to commit an offense punishable under this paragraph;


(2) a fine under this title or twice the value obtained by the offense, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than fifteen years, or both, in the case of an offense under subsection (a)(1), (4), (5), or (6) of this section which does not occur after a conviction for another offense under either such subsection, or an attempt to commit an offense punishable under this paragraph; and

(3) a fine under this title or twice the value obtained by the offense, whichever is greater, or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both, in the case of an offense under subsection (a) of this section which occurs after a conviction for another offense under such subsection, or an attempt to commit an offense punishable under this paragraph.

(d) The United States Secret Service shall, in addition to any other agency having such authority, have the authority to investigate offenses under this section. Such authority of the United States Secret Service shall be exercised in accordance with an agreement which shall be entered into by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General.

(e) As used in this section

(1) the term "access device" means any card, plate, code, account number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, personal identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier, or other means of account access that can be used, alone or in conjunction with another access device, to obtain money, goods, services, or any other thing of value, or that can be used to initiate a transfer of funds (other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument);

(2) the term "counterfeit access device" means any access device that is counterfeit, fictitious, altered, or forged, or an identifiable component of an access device or a counterfeit access device;

(3) the term "unauthorized access device" means any access device that is lost, stolen, expired, revoked, canceled, or obtained with intent to defraud;

(4) the term "produce" includes design, alter, authenticate, duplicate, or assemble;

(5) the term "traffic" means transfer, or otherwise dispose of, to another, or obtain control of with intent to transfer or dispose of.

A trial date was set for July 31st but it has now been postponed to September 8th at the Philadelphia Federal Courthouse at 6th and Arch St. starting at 10 am in Courtroom 5B on the fifth floor. Also, some good news is the fact that a bail hearing has finally been agreed to by the judge. The bad news is that it's not until September 7th, the day before the trial.

A suppression hearing is now set for WEDNESDAY, September 6th with the trial set to start on the 7th. The issue of bail will also be decided on Wednesday. Times are 11:00 am Wednesday and 10:00 am Thursday, if the trial is still scheduled at that point. The courtroom is now 9B. We expect things to start changing quickly at this point so keep checking this address for new information.

Trial Results

The trial is over. And we wish we could report better news than this. In the words of Bernie S., "I was forced to make a deal with the devil." On Thursday, September 7th, he plead guilty under what is known as a Zoodic Plea. This means that, although pleading guilty, he is challenging the constitutionality of the law he is violating. This came about for a number of reasons. The government had found data on a commercial diskette in Bernie S.'s possession which they say was related to cellular fraud in California. While Bernie says he has no idea what it is they're referring to, the odds of a jury being able to understand how someone could have a diskette and not be held accountable for every bit of data on it seemed uncomfortably slim. Also, by pleading guilty at this point and in this manner, Bernie will be sentenced in 10 days and will most likely be released at that time since he has already served the time he would probably be sentenced to. He would then have the ability to further challenge this law over the next several months. Being free during this process will be an advantage. Of course, the down side to this is the fact that the federal government will interpret this as a green light to lock up anyone in possession of simple electronic and/or computer tools. And, as has been so aptly demonstrated by the Bernie S. case, if they choose to treat the suspect as a terrorist and lock him/her up for six months with no bail, they won't have much of a problem finding a judge willing to do this. But what is really tragic about this case is that so few organizations with the power to speak up and draw attention to this travesty of justice felt compelled to do so. Groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union did little, if anything, to help. Their silence is overwhelming evidence that we need an electronic civil liberties group to tackle cases like this, many of which are likely to come up in the future.


In yet another example of callousness, the sentencing of Bernie S. was postponed for another three weeks. No reason was given for this latest extension of prison time (had he been sentenced on September 21 as scheduled, it's quite likely he would have been released because of the long period already served) but an emergency bail appeal is being filed. For now, sentencing is scheduled for October 10.

Sentencing took place on October 10 and Bernie S. was sentenced to seven months in federal prison. The seven month period ends on Saturday, October 14. At this time, Bernie S. is expected to be placed in the custody of local police where he will face a hearing on October 20 for probation violation. (He had been convicted of "tampering with evidence" when he removed the batteries from a tone dialer after being questioned by police.) There is the possibility of still more prison time after this hearing.


In a surprise move, Bernie S. was released on October 13. He still faces the October 20 hearing. This is the first time Bernie S. has been free since March.


The nightmare has started all over again. After five postponements (two requested by Ed's attorney, two procedural delays, and one court-ordered delay), the hearing was held on Friday, 1/12/96. In addition to the judge, Northampton County probation officer Scott Hoke, Secret Service agent Tom Varney, and Haverford Township detective John Morris were in attendance. Varney and Morris arrived in the same car.

Ed's attorney was unable to attend because his car had been plowed under in Philadelphia. He said he doubted the hearing would take place because of the weather but told Ed to drive up just in case. Ed drove several hours through blizzard conditions and arrived at the courthouse for the fourth time. Scott Hoke, however, did not take this effort into consideration and told the judge he would not tolerate any more postponements, despite the fact that most of the postponements had been requested by the court itself and that Ed had been wanting to get this over with from the start.

Hoke complained that Cummings had been "walking around on the street" for three months. He did not mention that Cummings has been fully employed during that time and has not violated any laws since his release. The judge chastised Cummings for his lawyer's failure to appear and refused to allow him to say anything.

Tom Varney of the Secret Service then told the judge that he believed Cummings to be a major threat to society and that he was concerned because of the upcoming presidential campaign. It was unclear if he was actually implying that Cummings would somehow be a threat to the president but the judge and the police listened intently. This was the first time a Secret Service agent had come to their town. Varney continued to describe the threatening items that had been found in Cummings' residence: a copy of The Anarchist's Cookbook, publications from Loompanix, a mag stripe read head (no electronics) which "could have been used" to commit fraud, and material thought to be C4 but later proven not to be. However, Varney said, the fact that it could have been showed how serious this was. Nobody questioned his logic.

All of this stems from an incident years ago when Cummings and two friends were being questioned by a Northampton County police officer. He had asked them about a tone dialer they had and, while he went into another room, somebody removed the batteries from the dialer. They were not under arrest and had not been instructed not to do this. However, based on this, Cummings was charged with "tampering with evidence" even though there was no proof that he had been the one to do it. Cummings refused to say who did and pleaded no contest. He was fined and that should have been the end of it. Then the events of March 1995 unfurled and all of a sudden, Cummings was a probation violator.

Prior to this hearing, the Secret Service made an extra effort to contact the county probation officer to insist that Cummings be imprisoned because he was such a threat. They made quite an impression upon him apparently. It also became known through various contacts that the Secret Service was particularly angry at Cummings because he had given pictures of Secret Service agents to local media (FOX 29) in Philadelphia. These pictures made the Secret Service agents look foolish. Later, Secret Service agents would say to a friend of Cummings: "Don't fuck with us. We're the biggest gang in town."

The judge determined that a probation violation had indeed taken place and that Cummings should be held and a sentencing date scheduled within 60 days. The judge had just done the same thing for a man who had just committed his third DWI offense. In fact, he had killed someone. The judge ordered that person held on $50,000 bail. Ed Cummings, however, was another matter. The judge ordered Cummings held on $250,000.

So Cummings was being held on a quarter of a million dollars because he was thought to have taken batteries out of a tone dialer years ago. He's in a 5 by 8 holding cell 22 hours a day with no windows and no clock. He never knows what time it is or whether it's day or night. The temperature reaches a maximum of sixty degrees and he has only one layer of thin cotton clothing and one blanket. To add to his misery, he was just notified that the Haverford Township police will destroy the property they seized from him last year unless he picks it up by Friday, January 19.

The hearing to determine how long Cummings will be imprisoned for will be scheduled within 60 days. He could get a maximum of two years.


Cummings has been transferred into the "Phase One Inmate Unit" which is where inmates are held for the first 30 days. There are three phases in total, the third occurs after 60 days. Right now he's actually in the cell known as "the hole" which is supposed to be used for solitary punishment. Because of overcrowding, he's been put in there with two other inmates, one of whom is a convicted child molestor serving time for DWI. Cummings described the conditions as "really bad" - the prison is cold and filthy. The prison itself was built right after the Civil War. There are tons of roaches and grafitti in all the cells which dates back to the fifties - the last time it was painted. There are 1200 inmates.

We will continue to forward any email he receives at the address.


We just found out that Bernie S. will be sentenced this Friday morning at 9 am in Easton, PA for the crime of removing batteries from a tone dialer several years ago. This is defined as a victimless misdemeanor for which the judge in this small town (under considerable influence from the Secret Service) set bail at $250,000. He could get two years in prison at sentencing. Press attention could be very helpful in avoiding a sentence as irrational as the bail setting - right now the only influence these people are getting is from the Secret Service and they want to put Bernie S away for as long as they can.

If you know of anyone who will cover this story, please get ahold of them right away so they can plan on being there. If anyone is interested in going, let us know so we can hopefully fill some cars from NYC.

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, January 26 at 9 am
Courtroom 5
Northampton County Government Center
7th and Washington Street
Easton, PA 18042-7492

(610) 559-3020 (district attorney)

case # 2173-1993
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania vs. Edward E. Cummings
Misdemeanor 2 - tampering with physical evidence

Please help spread the word.


The events of 1/26/96 were about as unbelievable as the events that have transpired throughout this case. The only positive development is that more people are slowly starting to realize what's happening.

Two and a half hours after the sentencing was to be held, the judge arrived in the courtroom. His demeanor seemed significantly more upbeat and open than his previous appearances. Perhaps this had to do with the fact that Ed's lawyer and members of the press were in attendance. The judge allowed everyone involved in the case to speak: Probation Officer Scott Hoak, Haverford Township Detective John K. Morris, Secret Service Agent Thomas L. Varney, Ed's attorney (Ken Trujillo), and Ed himself.

Throughout the hearing, the main issue was whether or not Cummings was a threat to the community. Varney was adament in his assessment of Cummings as a danger but when pressed by Trujillo could come up with nothing more substantive than the books found in Cummings' home. These books came from publishers like Loompanix and dealt with such things as making bombs and establishing false identities. The other damning evidence was a list of Secret Service frequencies (from an issue of Monitoring Times), a copy of a magazine article that listed Secret Service codenames for President Reagan (dated 1983), and a material that the Secret Service had suspected was C4 but which later turned out not to be. For some reason they feel compelled to mention this at each hearing as if C4 had actually been found when in fact the substance was something dentists use to mold dentures (the owner of the house was a dentist).

Trujillo successfully managed to get Varney to admit that no guns or explosives of any sort were found. No evidence was presented to indicate that Cummings was ever a threat of any sort to anybody. What's more, Cummings proved his responsibility by immediately getting a job after the Secret Service locked him up for most of last year and also by dutifully showing up for each hearing that was scheduled in Easton, even though the threat of more prison time loomed.

Cummings apologized to the court for his "odd curiosity" of the past, insisting that he merely collected books and information and never caused harm to anyone. His lawyer pleaded with the judge to allow Cummings to pick up the pieces of his life and not be subjected to any more inhumane treatment.

In the end, the judge was not interested in whether or not Cummings posed a threat. He saw a probation violation and therefore withdrew the probation. Sentencing was postponed to March 5th. But the judge showed some compassion. He lowered the $250,000 bail to $100,000.

Currently Cummings is imprisoned in the maximum wing of the prison where people with the highest bail are kept. He's with murderers and rapists. Conditions are appalling. One of the prisoners is on death row - his name is Joseph Henry and he bit off a woman's nipples and clitoris before strangling her with a slinky. These are the kinds of people the Secret Service has condemned Cummings to be with.

When Cummings was originally put on probation years ago, the probation officer told him he thought the whole thing was a big waste of time. The only thing he was accused of, after all, was taking batteries out of a tone dialer that a cop was questioning him about. And the really ironic part was that Cummings wasn't even the person who took the batteries out - it was one of his friends. But he was not about to turn a friend in for something so absurd. After all, this was a very minor thing - he paid a fine of nearly $3,000 and was put on probation and that was it.

When the Secret Service threw Cummings in prison for possession of a red box in early 1995, they knew he could be screwed again when he finally got out since being arrested is a probation violation. And Special Agent Thomas Varney spent a great deal of effort to see that this is exactly what happened. He made multiple trips to Easton and convinced the local authorities to lock Cummings up as if he were the most sadistic of killers.

On Friday, Cummings' probation officer did an aboutface and told the court that he thought Cummings represented a very great danger to the community. Outside the courtroom, he and the other local law enforcement people crowded around Varney like kids surrounding a rock star. He was their hero and maybe one day they would be just like him.

It would be good to say that the press showed up and the rest of the world finally got to see one of the greatest injustices perpetrated by the Secret Service. But the only headlines to come out of this charade said things like "Judge Hangs Up On Phone Hacker - Bail Revoked After He Continues To Commit Telecom Fraud". Not only has Cummings never been convicted of any kind of fraud - he's never even been accused of it. This is a case based entirely on perceptions and a sick vendetta by a government agency that has turned into a genuine threat against free thinking people everywhere.

When Cummings is sentenced on March 5th, he could be put into prison for years. This is what the Secret Service will attempt to ensure. They have to be stopped and they have to be held accountable for what they've already done. We need to be able to protect individual rights against this kind of abuse and so far we have all failed miserably. We have little more than a month to get it right.


At the hearing the Secret Service once again attempted to portray Cummings as one of America's most dangerous criminals. The points Special Agent Thomas Varney focused upon were: possession of books on explosives (books published by Loompanics that are widely available), lock-picking devices (Cummings was in violation of no law by possessing these), a number of computers (hardly surprising as Cummings' job was repairing computers), his affiliation with 2600 Magazine (not a secret and not a reason to label someone a criminal), and Cummings' appearances on WBAI radio in New York (something he had every right to do and one of the only ways the general public has been able to hear about his case). Varney began to say that Ed's "followers" had "taken it upon themselves" to do something but the judge cut him off before he was able to finish. We imagine Varney and his friends have been upset by the increasing awareness of the case and that they want to blame Cummings for every piece of nasty mail they get on the subject. Fortunately, the judge didn't buy it and refused to accept their labelling of Cummings as "one step above a terrorist". Unfortunately, this wasn't reflected in the sentencing.

Judge Jack A. Panella chastised Cummings for his lousy driving record and used this to back up the allegation that he had no respect for the law. (Cummings was never involved in an accident and was never accused of driving while impaired.) The judge found some inequities on the computer printout of Cummings' driving record and he seemed to imply that Cummings was somehow responsible for this. He also implied that Cummings had something to do with the loss of a previous arrest record. Curiously enough, he never mentioned that he forced Cummings to travel a long distance every month to report to probation when he could have easily assigned him to probation in or close to Philadelphia. When Cummings asked if it might be possible to change the location since his license was suspended, Panella increased the appearances to once every two weeks.

After calling Cummings a "true wise guy" and someone who showed disrespect and no remorse for his crimes (apparently, complaining about being locked in prison for a year for possessing crystals is a sign of "no remorse"), Panella passed sentence: 6 to 24 months plus a $3,000 fine.

At this point the best case scenario is that Ed will be out on May 30 since that will mark the six month point served in county prisons (the time served last year in county prison would also be added to this). But this is by no means a guarantee, especially if the Secret Service chooses to pursue their vendetta.

One thing is for certain: the publicity is helping. We have it on good authority that the prosecution wanted to ask for even more time but felt there would be too much adverse publicity. In recent weeks there have been a number of stories around the world on radio, television, and in newspapers. Public interest has increased dramatically.

We have also learned of a very similar case that took place in Kentucky late last year where a man was accused of the same offense that Cummings was. In this instance, however, he was accused of actually selling the black box that allowed cellular phones to be cloned. This was far more than Ed was ever accused of - he merely sold kits that could be built into boxes. The man in Kentucky decided to fight the charges and he showed how there were many legitimate uses for cloned phones. In front of a jury in Kentucky, he won the case. Unfortunately, Cummings' lawyer knew nothing about this and Cummings was forced to plead guilty last year in the mistaken belief that he would never be able to convince a jury that he hadn't committed a serious crime. Had he been found innocent, there never would have been a probation violation and Ed would be free today.

Shortly after sentencing, for unknown reasons, Ed was moved to another prison. The reason listed on the transfer form was "protective custody" which, in prison terms, means a prisoner is being moved because his life may be in danger, usually because he's an informant of some sort. Since this was the furthest thing from the truth, Ed asked around to find out what the story was. It seems that he was part of a "prisoner trade" where the *other* prisoner was being transferred for protective custody. This episode put Ed at great risk for no reason. It was the second time this kind of thing has happened - at the first prison a rumor was circulated that Ed was an undercover cop. Fortunately, newspaper articles about his case convinced his fellow prisoners that this wasn't true. But these incidents show us what a serious position Ed has been put into. This is not a camp or a halfway house. This is a serious prison where people are killed for two cartons of cigarettes. We must never forget this.


Ed bides his time in maximum security. Visits are 2 hours long but closely supervised in a large multi-purpose room. Only three people can visit at a time. Each visitor is thorougly metal-checked and hand-stamped.

Ed should receive a visit from a parole officer sometime in April or May, but does not. His first parole interview should occur about 2 months before his earliest possible release date (5/30 or 6/4).


On or about this date, Ed is moved from the maximum security facility at Bucks County Correctional Center to the minimum security Men's County Correctional Center (MCCC) just up the road in Doylestown, PA.

Visits here take place at picnic benches outside in the middle of a field, virtually unsupervised. Ed can receive clothing, food, books and other sundries during the visits. We bring lots of food, as he hasn't had any non-prison food since October. He really appreciates the visits and the deliveries of toiletries, etc., since the commissary in the minimum security facility stocks mostly just food items. Most minimum security inmates have either work-release privileges or shopping privileges. Ed does not.

On July 2, Ed has his first parole interview. The parole officer explains that he had had Ed on his list to visit in June, but 'forgot'. Unfortunately, the resulting paperwork cannot be sent to the State parole office in Harrisburg until 8/1 (due to some arcane rule, paperwork can only be submitted on the first of the month). The parole officer cannot officially estimate when Ed will be released, but his best guess is in the October/November timeframe.

Shortly after this interview, Ed is approved for three weeks of "voluntary" community service work. If an inmate "chooses" not to volunteer, he gets sent back to maximum security. He must complete the three weeks of service work with no pay before he will be permitted to obtain a work-release job. Ed volunteers and is sent to do groundskeeping work at The Heritage Conservancy.

Throughout July, Ed spends several hours on the phone with Rob Bernstein of Internet Underground Magazine. It's kind of difficult, because of course Ed must call collect, so he can't phone Rob at his office. Nevertheless, Rob thoroughly researches the story, interviewing everyone from Tom Varney to lawyers, witnesses, and friends. Rob's deadline for going to press is July 26.

Rob and Ed discuss the best way for Ed to receive a final copy of the article to verify all of the facts. Rob is to overnight the article on July 21. Rob's other duties prevent him from doing so. On July 23, Ed and Rob discuss whether Ed could possibly receive a fax at the offices of The Heritage Conservancy. They agree that Rob should not send the fax unless Ed has told him he has permission to do so. The next day, Ed asks his supervisor's boss, John Thornberry, for permission to receive a fax. John does not give his permission.

On July 25, Ed reports for his next-to-last day of community service. He spends most of the day raking grass clippings, pulling weeds, and 'weed-whacking'. At around 3PM, the cord on the weed-whacker breaks. Ed's supervisor, George, tells Ed that he has done a good enough job and to take a break. Ed insists that he wants to finish the job correctly, so George and Ed go to George's workshop in the basement to replace the cord.

Ed then completes the trimming job. George tells him to take a break, as it is just about time for Ed to return to the prison. Ed goes into the Conservancy office and sees a large amount of fax spilling out onto the floor (the fax machine is in the entryway). He picks up the fax and realizes that it is for him.

The Conservancy secretary, Nancy, asks if the fax is for Ed. He states that it is for him and starts reading it. A few minutes later, Ed decides that it might not be a good idea to hold onto the fax and throws it out. A few minutes later, John takes Ed back to the prison.

Later that same evening, Ed is handcuffed, chained and shackled and taken back to the maximum security facility. He is accused of of violating the community service rules.

A day or so later, he receives a formal written copy of the charges against him. He has supposedly not obeyed the wishes of his community service supervisor and also has had an unauthorized visit from friends or family on the community service worksite. These charges are Misdemeanor I offenses under prison rules, the same category as posessing a deadly weapon or attacking a prison guard.

Five days later, the Corrections Evaluation Board (CEB) must hold a hearing to decide if Ed is guilty of the misdemeanor charges. Although Rob Bernstein sends a notarized letter stating (among other things) that Ed did not know the fax was coming and did not authorize him to send the fax, the CEB finds Ed guilty. The board also refused to let Ed bring any witnesses to the hearing, a clear denial of his due process rights.

Ed decides to appeal the ruling, as having any possible 'write-ups' against him can potentially cause him to have to wait an additional 9 months until he can receive parole. During all Ed's time in jail prior to this point, he has never received even a single write-up. Ironically, he receives this misdemeanor charge almost a full two months past his earliest parole date.

The ruling carries a penalty of 10 days time in maximum security prison. After serving 19 days of his 10 day sentence, Cummings is returned to the minimum security facility (August 12). Ed works on his appeal with some help from his friends. As soon as the appeal is filed, Ed's cell is shaken down and he is written up for having excess reading materials. He must have them removed from his cell (i.e., given to his visitors or other inmates) by the end of the day on August 18. Ed's visitors on the 18th remove about 25 books and 10 periodicals when they leave at 10AM. The guards shake down Ed's cell again at around 9PM, stating that he has not removed all of the materials by the end of the day. Although Ed tells them that he thought he had until lights out (11PM) to throw the remaining materials away or give them to other prisoners, the guards don't agree. They write him up for having excess shampoo (3 bottles).

The appeal is rejected without comment.

The next step in the process is to file a grievance. Cummings' grievance is faxed by a friend to Mr. John Henderson at the prison at 1:52AM on July 22. Around 3:30AM, the night officers at the prison wake Ed up excitedly, screaming "What are you doing? Where's the computer? Where's the phone?". They rouse Ed out of bed and put him in a holding cell while they turn his own cell upside down, searching for a laptop and/or cellular phone. After about 15 minutes, the officers question Ed, asking how he managed to send the fax to Mr. Henderson. He says he dictated the letter earlier in the evening to a friend. The officers can't seem to understand this and want to know how he got out of his cell in the middle of the night and made the payphones work (they get turned off at 11PM). He again stated that he did not send the fax himself.

Somewhat perplexed, the guards allow Cummings to return to his cell. It takes him about an hour to put it back in order, replacing his bedding, returning his belongings to his locker, and cleaning up the toothpaste they squeezed onto the floor while searching for electronic devices. Finishing his task, Ed becomes violently ill. He eventually returns to a restless sleep.

The next morning, Mr. Henderson calls Ed into his office. Henderson confirms that he received the fax but that the information he received from other prison officers as to who would hear the grievance was incorrect. The appeal was to be heard by a Cliff Mitchell, a member of the original CEB. Mr. Henderson tells Ed that he has forwarded his appeal to Mr. Mitchell. When Ed asks why none of the legal and due process points made in his appeal were addressed, Mr. Henderson does not reply. When Ed tells Henderson that he wants to advise him that his lawyer, a former federal prosecutor, is willing to take the case to court, Mr. Henderson says, "That could take six years," and orders Ed out of his office. Ed relates the above horror story to the friend who sent the fax. She phones Mr. Henderson to confirm that he received the fax.

Cummings is once again asked to "volunteer" for community service; the 20 days of unpaid labor he performed previously are no longer considered valid. He volunteers and is put to work in the fields around the prison, shoveling up semi-decomposed grass clippings in the hot summer sun. He does this for 2 days, suffering from severe sunburn and heat exhaustion. On 8/26, prison officials decide to switch Ed to pot scrubbing duty. He scrubs pots big enough to climb into for 8-9 hours a day.

Ed's cell is shaken down two more times in the next week, although no other inmates seem to be receiving this treatment. He receives an unofficial write-up for having excess paperwork and is made to remove it from the prison the next time he has visitors. The papers in question are bound transcripts of Ed's court appearances and appeals.

The grievance is rejected by Mr. Mitchell on the morning of 8/29. The next step appears to be to file an appeal of the grievance with the prison warden. Ed and his lawyer had earlier spoken about perhaps taking the case to court, but the lawyer counseled Ed to proceed with the regular prison administrative procedures first. Ed contacts his lawyer through a friend, although the lawyer is out of the country until 9/4.


Ed is woken up by prison guards who handcuff, chain and shackle him. He is then handed over to the Northampton County sheriff. The sheriff transfers him from Bucks County Men's Correctional Facility (a minimum security facility) to Lehigh County Correctional Facility (a maximum security facility), supposedly for "protective custody".

This rationale was somewhat of a fallacy; we believe it is fairly common in the prison universe to transfer a prisoner who has appealed administrative decisions.

For those of you unaware of the meaning of "protective custody", in prison, this status is usually reserved for prisoners who need protection from other prisoners, most often child molesters, rapists, and 'snitches'. Prison officials are *supposed* to put these prisoners in even more restrictive conditions for their own protection.

So, Ed is approved for minimum security and is then all of a sudden transferred to a maximum security prison under "protective custody". Furthermore, Ed says that his original sentencing order states that he must serve out his term in Buck's County. Being moved to Lehigh County certainly violates that.

Adding injury to insult, as Ed was talking on the phone at 10:15AM on 8/31, trying to get a second message to his lawyer about the transfer and the "protective custody", he had to go all of a sudden.

The person he was speaking to noted that Ed, who said he'd call right back, didn't until late Saturday evening. Also for the record, when Ed did call back Saturday night, the collect call was from AT&T (not a prison system).

Why? At 7:41AM 9/1, in a somewhat slurred but very intent voice, Ed told the story...

As he was speaking on the phone Saturday morning, apparently some other inmate who'd been nabbed in a prison drug bust Friday night wanted to use the phone. Ed hung up, but told the guy he needed to make one more call. He dialed the number three times, but it was busy. The guy wasn't too happy about this -- he kicked Ed in the face. Ed used his previously-shattered left arm to try to protect his face. The result? He's lost several teeth, his jaw is shattered, and his arm is also completely shattered.

He had surgery on both his arm and his jaw. He said "I look like Lou Albano". His jaw was so shattered, they had to "slit my throat in two places" to put the metal in to hold it back together as it mends. His mouth will be wired shut for 2-3 months. If you wanted to shut someone up, this would do the trick. There is also a chance of nerve damage which might leave him with permanent droops in his face.

[9/2/96 11AM]

Ed's nurse, Pat, says that he's doing well, a little mush mouthed, but the surgery was fine. She says that the hospital doesn't have special visiting hours for prisoners - he can have visitors as far as she's concerned from 11AM - 8PM daily. She then says he can receive calls in his room .

A gruff voice answers Ed's phone, "Roberts". Roberts asks, "Are you aware that he's a prisoner?" Of course we are, and the hospital staff told us to call. Roberts states that permission to speak to or visit Ed must be granted by the warden of Lehigh County Prison.

The warden, Ed Sweeney, is not in the office (it being Labor Day). The prison lobby officer, CO White, says when asked if Mr. Sweeney is there, "No chance - its a holiday!" He adds that he was with Ed when the kicking incident happened, but that the warden won't be in until 9/3.

So, Ed's finally getting the protective custody they ordered for him. He's being protected from his friends.

[9/2/96 9PM]

An urgent phone call arrives at 2600's offices from a friend: Ed is trying to reach us but the pay phone system he is using won't allow him to connect to several of our numbers. Ed manages to reach Rob Bernstein (the reporter from Internet Underground) who gets through to us.

After trying many of our fax and other phone lines, we finally get to talk to Ed. At 2PM, prison officials had Ed moved from the hospital back to the prison's Infectious Disease Ward. Ed begged and pleaded with his surgeon to allow him to stay in the hospital one more night, to no avail. The surgeon determined that it was not medically necessary for Ed to stay in the hospital, as the prison has medical facilities.

The medical unit at the prison consists mostly of people with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. It took 3.5 hours for them to put sheets on Ed's bunk, and 7 hours for them to give him any pain medication, ice for his swelling, or pillows to raise his arm. When Ed complained about this, stating that he was under medical orders to have ice on his incisions every half hour, the prison nurse replied, "This is not a medical facility, it's a prison. You should be lucky you're getting any attention at all." He is also supposed to have a soft toothbrush to brush the blood and tissue from the surgery out of the wires holding his jaw shut. The nurse offered him a hard toothbrush.

Ed is suffering many injustices and can barely speak for himself at this point. We will be arranging protests over the next several days. If you or anyone you know can help make this case more public, now is the time. Ed has previously asked that we not organize protests, but he has requested that we do so now explicitly. Please email or phone our voice mail system at (516) 473-2626 for up to the minute details. The office number for 2600 Magazine is (516) 751-2600.

We will update this page as soon as we have any news or further information about what YOU can do to help.

You can always send Ed e-mail at
Snailmail should go to Ed's new mailing address:
Lehigh County Prison
Ed Cummings, Inmate 67770
38 North 4th Street
Allentown, PA 18103

[ 09.04.96 ]

At around 10AM Wednesday, we received a rather upbeat call from Ed. He's still feeling pretty lousy, but he did speak to his lawyer. Ken (lawyer) called Judge Panella in Northampton County and also Dan Pollanski, the District Attorney. They both agreed that there was no valid reason for Ed to have been transferred to Lehigh County maximum facility and that a transfer to a minimum security facility with good medical services should be They also concurred that Ed should not be sent back to Bucks County due to the administrative treatment he received there.

The judge spent a good 30 minutes discussing this with Ken, which is virtually unheard of. They discussed that Panella's sentencing had specifically stated that Ed was to serve all of his sentence at Bucks County, alluding to the fact that the BCCF administrators should never have transferred him. Furthermore, the judge agreed that there was no basis provided for the "protective custody" designation.

On an even more positive note, the judge and the DA were to discuss revisiting Ed's sentence with Ken. They both agreed that they had expected Ed to serve his minimum sentence and be paroled after 6 months. We will hear more about this shortly.

This could result in Ed's immediate release. A note of caution to you optimists out there: several layers of administrative b.s. are in place to assure that prisoners are not easily released (to prevent them from taking advantage of family or political ties, etc.)

So, we were feeling fairly upbeat about the whole situation... At 12:30, Ed phoned from yet another prison phone system (TeleLink). He was transferred back to Northampton County Prison. As most of you will remember, this prison was built in the 1800s and has horrible conditions including roaches and rats.

Ed is now in the infectious disease medical unit there. There is not *supposed* to be any smoking on this unit, but of course inmates do. Ed is allergic to cigarette smoke. When he was last in this facility, he was very ill with 104 fever and coughing up blood. We can imagine how difficult that type of coughing could get with Ed's jaw broken and wired shut.

The medical facility there is run by a private company who cuts costs wherever possible, including neglecting to provide prescribed medications to inmates. Ed was given a pillow, which seems like a bonus compared to the Lehigh facilities. Ed was woken up around 8am Wednesday and moved to a new cell in the infectious disease ward (he had been transferred yesterday as well). He also got to see the Lehigh Prison doctor for the first time since his release from the hospital. The doctor was concerned about continued pain Ed has in his right temple and was to call the hospital to review the xrays for possible fracture there. He was also going to prescribe a stronger painkiller for Ed (currently on Tylenol 3 with Codeine). Ed is fairly sure that he will have to start this process all over again with a doctor at Northampton County, whenever one sees him. The discharge unit at Lehigh County refused to allow Ed to take his legal paperwork with him. His lawyer has phoned the discharge unit, who is now "searching for the folders".

Ed still needs to get a soft toothbrush and a cover for his cast so he can shower -- believe it or not, he hasn't been able to shower since last THURSDAY; when they transferred him on Friday, he was in a holding cell for about 10 hours and hadn't had a chance to shower before 10AM on Saturday. You can just imagine his current condition, after losing a few pints of blood and then having surgery...

We have no assurance that they will allow him to receive the package we're sending today which includes these items. We tried getting a copy of his medical release instructions to send along with the package, but the hospital requires Ed to sign a release form before they'll provide the instructions to anyone but Ed. The prison system, including medical facilities, seem to feel no compulsion to follow the medical orders. Lehigh didn't provide him with liquified food and didn't have a mortar/pestle to grind up his medication and vitamins. Ed doesn't hold much hope that the Northampton County facilities will be any better. He also hasn't had any ice on his incisions since last night (more than 12 hours ago). If his arm swells under the cast, his circulation could be cut off.

We've also just called the Lehigh County DA's office to find out what Ed has to do to file criminal charges against the guy who beat him up (Michael Williams). Apparently, no one from the police department has asked Ed if he wants to file charges. No one took photographs of Ed's condition after the beating. Ed has to ask for a special criminal complaint form from the prison he's in. He'll do this today; he *has* to file the criminal complaint against his assailant before he can file civil complaints against Bucks County and Lehigh County prisons.

If anyone can send him a money order for $10 or $15, that would also help - he could then purchase soap, shampoo, paper, pen and stamps at the comissary. He's now at:
Northampton County Correctional Facility

ATTN: Ed Cummings, M3
666 Walnut Street
Easton, PA 18042

For the record, the Warden at this facility is:

Terrence O'Connel
voice: 610.559.4228
fax:   610.252.4082

More Info: The Latest

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