Judge says former Madison school clerk might not qualify for shock probation

jwarren@herald-leader.comOctober 27, 2011 

RICHMOND — A former Madison Central High School secretary serving a three-year prison sentence for having sex with a student might not be legally eligible for shock probation, Madison Circuit Judge William Clouse told attorneys Wednesday.

He said he "came across" a chart that appeared to indicate Lynda Chase might would not qualify under state sentencing and probation guidelines.

That development came as a surprise because it had been assumed since Chase's sentencing that she would be eligible for probation after serving a month in prison. She has been at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women in Pewee Valley since Aug. 26.

Chase, 37, who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, pleaded guilty in May to one count of third-degree rape and four counts of third-degree sodomy involving a 15-year-old student. She was sentenced in August.

Most of Wednesday's hearing focused on the medical care Chase has been receiving at Pewee Valley. Her attorneys argued that it has been inadequate and that her health has declined as a result.

Clouse informed attorneys about his discovery near the end of a two-hour hearing.Chase had filed a motion seeking early release from prison or home detention, arguing that she was not receiving adequate medical care. Chase, paralyzed from a car crash more than 30 years ago, takes several drugs to control her related medical problems.

Until he saw the chart on Friday, Clouse said he had thought Chase was eligible for shock probation.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jennifer Smith argued that even if Chase's eligibility for shock probation might be "ambiguous," there were ample reasons to keep her in prison.

Clouse said that because questions about Chase's probation eligibility had surfaced late in the process, he would take the matter under advisement. He said he would give Chase's lawyers time to file briefs on the eligibility issue before making a ruling.

Chase's lead attorney, James Baechtold, said afterward that eligibility questions had never been raised before. Baechtold said he had not reviewed the chart the judge cited, but it appeared to put Chase's probation eligibility into question because she is a class D felony sex offender.

Baechtold said he wanted to review the law and probation regulations before submitting a brief to the court.

Earlier in the hearing, a sometimes emotional Chase testified from her wheelchair at the defense table. Chase said she suffers from severe bladder and bowel problems stemming from her paralysis that prevent her from going to the bathroom in the normal manner. Chase said she takes several prescription medications at specific times of the day to control the problems, and can become incontinent without them.

Chase said she was denied one of the drugs for 30 days while she was at Pewee Valley; others were not provided at the proper times. Because of the drug delay, Chase said, she contracted an E. coli bladder infection and developed a bowel leakage. She also described other difficulties, such as getting the prison to provide someone to help push her wheelchair.

Under questioning from Clouse, however, Chase said she currently was getting the services she needs. Clouse said the issue was Chase's current care, saying, "I can't undo what happened in the past."

Prosecutors called Janet Conover, the warden at Pewee Valley, and Dr. Angela Clifford, a physician at the facility. Both testified that the prison had responded when Chase asked for medical supplies or help. Clifford said one drug was delayed because prison officials at first didn't know what it had been prescribed for.

Clifford drew sharp questioning from defense attorney Michael Eubanks after she said she had never called Chase's doctor to ask about her medications.

"If I did that with every inmate, I'd always be on the phone and doing nothing else," Clifford said. Pewee Valley has nearly 700 inmates.

Smith, the assistant commonwealth's attorney, discounted many of Chase's claims about her physical problems, noting at one point that Chase had managed to "get in bed and have sex with a 15-year-old boy."

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