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Auburn Correctional Facility

Auburn Correctional Facility.

AUBURN — Auburn Correctional Facility received a court order to allow the force-feeding of an inmate who went on a hunger strike last month. 

West Spruill, 43, was sentenced in July 2017 to life without parole after being convicted of first-degree murder, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

According to Spruill, who appeared in Cayuga County Court Thursday morning, his hunger strike — a third for him — began about April 8. Since April 12, ACF's Nurse Practitioner Richard Slagle said he believes Spruill has consumed three meals. He is also refusing adequate fluids.

Slagle said that Spruill indicated he was on a hunger strike due to inhumane conditions and wanting more privileges. Spruill allegedly stated he didn't care if he died.

"Organ failure and death are the inevitable result" of a hunger strike, Slagle said in response to a question by Assistant Attorney General Jimmie McCurdy, representing DOCCS. Slagle indicated medical intervention is necessary to sustain Spruill's well-being.

Rome Canzano, an attorney representing Spruill, said he wouldn't challenge the state's authority to ensure Spruill is fed, but wanted to challenge the way in which he's fed and treated. Through questioning Slagle, Canzano established that although a nasal feeding tube is the least invasive procedure by which to force-feed someone, it is the most painful. He advocated that his client be treated in a hospital, saying that Spruill isn't eating due to a mental health condition and should therefore be treated in a medical setting.

"I'm living under inhumane conditions," Spruill said in court. He added he had no TV, radio, running water and no personal property. He said he was in solitary confinement for misbehavior reports. "I don't feel like eating, I feel suicidal," he said after explaining he suffers from severe depression and bipolar disorder.

He asked that the court allow for him to be treated in a hospital, not the prison, noting that he was force-fed years ago and it was "very, very painful ... very inhumane." He said times when he refused to be restrained to be force fed he was sprayed with a chemical agent by prison staff, making it so he couldn't breathe or see. Then, he was wrestled to the ground, retrained, and had a tube put down his nose. Another time, he was force-fed in a hospital setting and he said he was "treated very professionally and humanely."

The prison would require force-feedings twice a day if Spruill continues to refuse to eat.

Canzano asked that if the court puts an order in place authorizing the state to feed and treat Spruill, that there be restrictions for the way it's done. 

McCurdy stated that the reason the issue ended up in court is due to Spruill's decisions — the ones he made to get sent to prison, to be placed in solitary confinement, and to stop eating. He asserted that DOCCS should be allowed to feed him using their methods, and not be forced to bring him to a hospital.

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Judge Thomas Leone signed an 18-month order to grant the state authority to feed Spruill by their methods, noting he's not going to let an inmate "pick the level of care" received.

Also in court

• A Sempronius man was sentenced to shock probation for identity theft and drug possession.

Arthur Demott, 58, of 6470 Frazier Road was sentenced for first-degree identity theft, a class D felony, first-degree criminal possession of marijuana, a class C felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.

Having a limited criminal history, he was sentenced to five years shock probation with the shock portion being four months in Cayuga County Jail for each of his felonies. He was sentenced to three years of probation for his misdemeanor. His sentences will run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay about $4,000 in restitution.

"I just made bad decisions, and I apologize," Demott said, explaining he got very sick and "was not myself."

• A Cayuga County man admitted stealing more than $3,000 in welfare benefits.

Timothy Sawyer, 49, of 21 McLaughlin Lane, Locke, pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony. While he could face up to seven years in prison, he will likely be sentenced to two to four years in prison with a drug treatment order. He is due back for sentencing July 11.

• A Genoa woman admitted violating probation, a sentence she received in January.

Carie Gilbert, 43, violated her probation when she was charged with second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in Cayuga County. District Attorney Jon Budelmann said she was in three accidents in a matter of weeks.

Gilbert will begin a 28-day inpatient drug treatment program Friday and is due back for sentencing June 6.

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.

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