Sunday, June 24, 2018
Public safety

Isolated Nick Bollea asks for new jail cell

Nick Bollea sits alone in a maximum-security cell with tan concrete walls, a 6-inch-high window and a slot in the door for his food tray.

The 17-year-old has lost more than 10 pounds, his attorneys say, since he began serving an eight-month jail sentence for a wreck that left his friend with a major brain injury. They say Bollea is traumatized by what they say amounts to "solitary confinement."

So in a motion filed Friday, they asked that Bollea either be released on house arrest until July 27, when he turns 18 and would return to jail, or moved to minimum security.

Not only that, Bollea's attorneys filed a separate lawsuit Monday asking a judge to stop the Sheriff's Office from releasing recordings of Bollea's telephone calls with his family.

"Just because you have a conversation recorded, it doesn't necessarily make it a public record," said Bollea's attorney, Kevin Hayslett.

Bollea's conversations, he contended, are between a child and parent and are not subject to disclosure under public record laws.

Bollea's "excessively harsh" housing, along with media coverage of his family's visits and the release of his calls, "amounts to cruel and unusual punishment," according to his attorneys' motion to modify his sentence.

George Tragos, a lawyer for John Graziano's family, said he was appalled at the request.

"It doesn't sound cruel compared to what John Graziano's going through," Tragos said.

Graziano, 23, has been in a semiconscious state since Aug. 26, when Bollea's speeding Toyota Supra slammed into a tree. Bollea pleaded no contest May 9 to reckless driving with serious bodily injury.

Sheriff's officials have said that although Bollea was sentenced as an adult, he is still a child, and Florida law requires them to house him separately from adult inmates.

But Bollea's attorneys note that he is a nonviolent first-time offender and point out that inmates with similar offenses are allowed to move about freely within "pods" and have access to a telephone and TV.

By comparison, Bollea's 8½-by-16½-foot cell contains a sink, a toilet, a shower, a small desk and a bed. He is allowed reading materials, letters and commissary items.

Before filing their motion, Bollea's attorneys had asked that he be allowed a television and/or a DVD player and additional time off based on his time in solitary confinement.

In a letter last week, sheriff's deputy general counsel Jennifer Monrose Moore wrote that Bollea's "current classification, housing and treatment … are proper."

The motion also contends the problems created by Bollea's confinement were "magnified" by the sheriff's release of 26 hours of calls between Bollea and his family.

In the tapes, Nick Bollea calls Graziano a "negative person" and discusses creating a new reality show with his father, former professional wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan.

Attorneys said Bollea's hourlong video visits are his only contact with the outside world.

"Now," they wrote, "Nick cannot even have a private conversation with his family without fear that it be immediately broadcast nationally."

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