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Freedom is fleeting for released inmate

For jail inmates Louis Meeks and Kerry Uzell, the deal probably seemed too good to be true. And, as things turned out, it was.

Both men received early freedom last week as part of a periodic jail sweep designed to keep the lockups' population in check. But court records clearly show that Meeks and Uzell had not served nearly enough of their sentences to qualify for such a perk.

The Sheriff's Office took Meeks into custody Friday. As of 6 p.m. Monday, Uzell had not been returned to jail.

The special jail-review committee, which suggested releasing the two men, blamed a clerical error for Meeks' case and did not offer any excuse for Uzell's case.

Circuit Judge William Edwards, who officially authorized the moves, was not in his office late Monday. He said last week that he does not review the committee's paperwork before signing the release orders.

The trouble started last Monday, when the population of the county's new jails passed the maximum of 178. The jail-review committee immediately called a meeting.

The area's chief judge created that committee last summer, when overcrowding had become a chronic problem.

The committee looked at the jail roster and considered the following factors for all the inmates: severity of the offenses, the inmate's disciplinary record at the jail, criminal record, and ties to the community.

It then drew up a list of 10 inmates who could be released pending trial or who had served a "substantial" part of their sentences. Edwards reviewed the findings and authorized the releases.

Meeks, a 36-year-old Crystal River man, had been sentenced July 13 to a two-year jail term for drunken driving and driving with a suspended license, records showed. The man admitted that he has several DUI convictions on his record.

In a written motion filed Friday, Assistant State Attorney Lisa Porter said that, according to records the committee reviewed, Meek's tentative release date was Oct. 7.

In fact, that date is sometime in 1993 at the earliest, Porter said in the motion.

Uzell, a 30-year-old Crystal River man, was sentenced Sept. 23 to a 90-day jail term for driving with a suspended license. The committee thought Uzell still was awaiting trial, Porter's motion said.