Colo official: Saudi inmate investigated in death
CENTENNIAL, Colorado (AP) — Authorities investigated a Colorado prison inmate from Saudi Arabia in the slaying of the state’s corrections chief, the state’s assistant prison director testified Thursday, but they apparently found nothing linking the prisoner to the killing.
The testimony came at a hearing on a transfer request from Saudi national Homaidan al-Turki, who is seeking to return to his native country to serve the remainder of his sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting a housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave.
The hearing marked the first time corrections officials publicly acknowledged that al-Turki was investigated in the slaying of Department of Corrections director Tom Clements. Clements was killed in March outside his home about a week after denying an earlier transfer request from al-Turki.
In an April lawsuit, al-Turki alleged that officials improperly leaked word that a “main working theory” in the murder investigation was that Clements was killed in retaliation.
Authorities say former Colorado inmate Evan Spencer Ebel was found with a gun that matched the one used to shoot Clements. Ebel, a member of a white supremacist gang, died in a shootout with Texas authorities two days after Clements was killed.
Prison officials placed al-Turki in protective custody following Clements’ death, citing media attention.
He was later transferred to a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona, in part because of the “notoriety” of the Clements investigation, according to testimony Thursday by Angel Medina, assistant director of the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Al-Turki’s lawyers raised the investigation of Clements’ death while questioning Medina at a hearing on their client’s latest transfer request.
Medina was was not asked whether al-Turki had been formally cleared in the death. But he said no misconduct was reflected on a subsequent assessment of the prisoner.
Medina did not say why al-Turki was investigated.
Another official from the Colorado Department of Corrections, associate director Paul Hollenbeck, testified that Clements was prepared in January to grant al-Turki’s transfer. However, the transfer was denied after an FBI agent contacted the Department of Corrections saying he had information about al-Turki, Hollenbeck said. Hollenbeck didn’t elaborate on what the agent said or why the transfer was denied.
Al-Turki is serving eight years to life in prison after his 2006 conviction on unlawful sexual contact by use of force, false imprisonment and other charges — all in the case involving his housekeeper.
Authorities said that al-Turki and his wife brought the housekeeper from Indonesia to Colorado to care for their five children and to cook and clean.
Al-Turki denied the charges, saying he was a victim of anti-Muslim sentiment inflamed by the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
He has refused to participate in a mandatory prison program for sex offenders, saying it violates his religious beliefs by requiring him to look at photos that include women in bathing suits or undergarments. Prosecutors counter that al-Turki’s crimes violated his religion.
A Saudi consular again told the judge Thursday that Saudi officials would honor any conditions of probation imposed by Colorado if al-Turki were allowed to return.
Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP