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DEAL TO SWAP INMATES TURNS SOUR

It was supposed to be a trade that would rid Utah of an admitted white supremacist and accused killer, not to mention save the state thousands of dollars in court costs.

So far, it's a deal that increases Utah's prison population by one and saves taxpayers nothing.Last Thursday Virginia inmate Joe Giarratano became a Utah inmate. Utah Corrections officials agreed to take the convicted double murderer in exchange for Virginia's acceptance of Utah inmate Eric Daniels.

The problem? Daniels isn't going to Virginia.

Daniels is one of four white inmates accused of killing a black inmate two years ago. About a month ago, Daniels agreed to plead guilty as charged if the state would recommend he avoid the death penalty and transfer him to another state to do his time.

In a conversation with at least one Corrections official and an assistant attorney general prosecuting the case, Daniels' attorney, Patrick L. Anderson, said the inmate would prefer to go to Minnesota or Vermont, but would probably transfer anywhere except the South or a state with predominantly black populations.

Daniels wanted to avoid Southern states because he has tattoos declaring his affiliation with white supremacist groups, Anderson said.

Prosecutor Scott Reed said officials agreed to the conditions but left the transfer arrangements to the Department of Corrections.

That's where the deal appears to have gone sour.

Anderson said he had a mitigation specialist look into the Virginia correctional system the same day he was offered the deal. He turned it down the next day because it would, in effect, be a "death sentence."

"She said he'd have a life expectancy of about 45 minutes," Anderson said, pointing out that Virginia's inmate population is 70 percent black.

Corrections spokesman, Jack Ford, said the prison's inmate-placement program was asked to try to find a place that would accept Daniels. He said that some time in the early stages of that effort, Utah was contacted by Virginia.

"(They) called us and said, `We've got this politically hot inmate; we would like to get rid of him,' " Ford said. Knowing that Daniels wanted a transfer, Utah officials agreed to take Giarratano in exchange for Daniels, he said.

"We weren't going to tell him which state he was going to . . . we never do," Ford said. "We don't let inmates pick and choose where they go."

Anderson said he wasn't told that information. Instead, he was told that Utah officials tried to get Daniels transferred to Minnesota, Vermont and about a half dozen states, but no one would take him.

Contacted by the Deseret News, officials in Minnesota said they've never received a formal request from Utah officials about housing Daniels. James Zellmer, the deputy compact administrator, said he wouldn't have refused Daniels' transfer without seeing all of his background information.

When told by the Deseret News that Daniels was instrumental in instigating a riot in a prison facility, an admitted white supremacist and accused of killing another inmate inside a facility, Zellmer said just that information wouldn't be grounds for refusing to take the inmate.

"We really need to see all of his information . . . sometimes people just make bad decisions," he said. "We look at a lot of other factors."

Officials in two other states also said they hadn't heard of Daniels and would need more information before refusing to take him.

Ford said regardless of what Anderson was told about efforts to find housing outside of Utah for Daniels, it really doesn't matter.

"I think we did call a couple of places, but then we got that call (from Virginia), we just said, `Yeah, we'll take it,' " Ford said. "That deal was done in less than a day . . . We don't let inmates pick and choose. We did find (Daniels) a place (to go). He didn't want to go there."

But Corrections officials did let attorneys for David Franklin Young, a former death row inmate and three-time killer, choose where he would go if he pleaded guilty.

Young wanted to go to - and was accepted by - Minnesota, the same place Daniels wanted to transfer.

What happens now isn't clear.

Regardless of what happens with Daniels' case, Giarratano will stay in Utah. Ford said officials could send another inmate to Virginia, but he doesn't know if that will happen.

Utah doesn't really have extra beds for inmates who trouble other states. Nearly 100 Utah inmates have been housed in a privately operated facility in Texas for more than a year.

Corrections officials hoped to bring the inmates back to the Beehive State this year, but are waiting for remodeling and new construction to provide them the necessary beds.

Anderson hopes prosecutors will revive attempts to find Daniels an acceptable transfer so the case won't have to go to trial. Reed echoed that sentiment.

Ford said Corrections officials don't have any say in what kind of deal prosecutors make, but reiterated that director Lane McCotter has said previously he won't allow inmates to control where they're housed.

"Frankly, (McCotter) would prefer (the case) go to trial . . . . He still thinks (Daniels) deserves the death penalty for killing another inmate," Ford said. "He (McCotter) thinks that sends a message to other inmates that if you take a life in prison, you really will face the death penalty. And it's a signal we want to send to other inmates.

"But the bottom line is, it's expensive (to go to trial)."