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Rader access disturbs D.A.

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 8:24 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 4:50 p.m.

Sedgwick County prosecutors voiced serious objections Friday to a prison life for serial killer Dennis Rader that isn't as restrictive as a judge recommended.

They were responding to a Kansas Department of Corrections letter released to The Eagle on Friday saying the agency will follow some but not all of the recommendations to limit what the BTK serial killer can read, write and see in prison. The letter was first reported Friday afternoon on The Eagle's Web site, Kansas.com.

Kim Parker, Sedgwick County Chief Deputy District Attorney, said in an interview Friday that she found it "offensive" that Rader would have access "to things that please him most."

Parker and other prosecutors argue that Rader gets pleasure from media accounts of his crimes and can use even harmless materials to create images that fuel his violent bondage fantasies.

As long as he has access to those items, he remains dangerous, even in prison, they contend.

Parker said the prosecutors' office, led by District Attorney Nola Foulston, hopes to soon discuss its concerns with Kansas Secretary of Corrections Roger Werholtz.

Department of Corrections officials didn't comment on the letter Friday.

Asked about the prosecutors' concerns, Rader's chief public defender, Steve Osburn, said the corrections department has to follow its own regulations.

Rader still retains a First Amendment right to read and write things, with some restrictions, Osburn said.

Currently, Osburn said, Rader gets to write three letters a month and has limited telephone privileges.

In a letter to Sedgwick County District Judge Greg Waller, who handled Rader's case, Werholtz spelled out some of Rader's conditions of confinement.

Since Aug. 19, Rader has been held at El Dorado Correctional Facility, where he has begun serving 10 consecutive life sentences for murders from 1974 to 1991.

Waller recommended the restrictions for Rader at an Oct. 12 hearing in the prison. But corrections officials didn't formally consider the restrictions until after Dec. 16 because, officials said, the paperwork was not delivered to them until prompted by an inquiry from The Eagle.

In his Dec. 20 letter, Werholtz wrote that many of Waller's recommendations are already in force "in some form" under corrections regulations. And he noted that Rader is classified as a "special management inmate," meaning he has the most restrictive level of confinement.

One of Waller's recommendations was that Rader — who tortured and strangled many of his victims while acting out sexual fantasies — not be able to "possess, receive or create any visual images of human beings or animals, including drawings."

In his letter, Werholtz said: "The Department in evaluating the sexual explicitness of material relative to inmate Rader will take into consideration his sexual proclivities. However, publications such as Time or Newsweek which contain photographs of persons or animals would not generally be prohibited."

Instead, the letter said officials would determine whether material was "sexually explicit" or "a threat," as defined by state prison regulations.

Waller told The Eagle on Friday that although he had recommended more limits for Rader, "It's also up to them how to interpret their regulations."

Sedgwick County Deputy District Attorney Kevin O'Connor said prosecutors "went to great lengths" to present a legal basis for preventing Rader from having reading, writing and viewing materials.

During the hearing they contended that Rader could take an advertisement showing a person in an innocent pose and turn it into a violent sexual fantasy. Rader had cut out and stashed thousands of advertisements for that purpose, he told investigators after his capture in February.

Access to media accounts is another concern of prosecutors. Parker said that news coverage of Rader's crimes "propels him to act in a deviant way." But it doesn't appear from the letter that the concern has been adequately addressed, she said.

Parker said she realizes that what prosecutors and the judge are recommending would require corrections staff to supervise Rader very closely.

In his letter, Werholtz said that although Rader has not reached the privilege level that would allow him to buy a radio, a television or reading material, he could eventually earn them. At that point, "his access to news programs would not be curtailed," Werholtz said.

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